If your cafe isn’t on Naver, is it really a cafe? An important essay by Jo So Ko

Hello world, welcome to this important essay titled ‘Never not gonna Naver’. I actually just made that up and it kind of almost doesn’t make any sense. I’m currently getting my sweat on at the gym and thought ‘hmmm…perhaps I should write an important blog post about the positive correlation between a Korean cafe’s Naver presence and its interior design/aesthetic value’. The person who sweat all over this germ-infested bike before me really gave me that extra push of inspiration that I needed tonight.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s 8am, you’ve just awoken from a night of soju drinking in a new place and you realise that you’ve overpayed on your hotel based on the kink the $10 sandbox pilow has left in your neck. You’re disoriented, dehydrated and in desperate need of caffeine. Alas, the last thing you need is one of Korea’s chain coffee stores to so much as toy with the idea of trying cure your current discombobulated state. No no no. You need a real cafe. With real chairs. With a unique cafe concept. That’s what you need.

This is where the Naver part comes in (thank you for bearing with me on this strange journey, my bike has just ticked over the 15 minute mark and I have useless essay ideas aplenty right now). Naver, for you monolingual troglodytes out there, is Koreans answer to Google. Why did Korea need an answer to a question nobody else dare ask? Homogeneity. That’s why. (Naver have a search engine, a maps service, a WebToon website, they own ‘Line’ which is a messaging platform more commonly used in Japan as well as ‘Snow’ which is a popular camera app here in Korea (along with many other services)).

Anyway… so, my husband and I both embarked on the 30-second long task to try and find a cafe to schlep ourselves to. We searched ‘cafe’ in Korean and both decided that the best place for us to go was one with a beautiful range of pastries and bread. Not 20 minutes later were we ready and out the door, without a shadow of doubt blocking our decision’s limelight. Despite having to drive 20 minutes to the cafe, our 30 second decision did not alter along the way. 

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Here is the first page of a Naver search for ‘Jeju cafe’. I will note that this search is based on your location, so this is a search I did today in Seoul. Wherever you are, if you type ‘카페’ into Naver, it will show the closest cafes to you.

Note the hierarchy of information: Naver puts a big emphasis on the image size and quality. Giving each search result a lettered label makes it much easier to see where the cafe is and remember which search result you liked the most. Next to the letter for each cafe is the name of the cafe, followed by a short description such as ‘A beautiful dessert cafe with a view of the sea in Jeju’ and then the number of reviews customers have left on their Naver Blog.

The information Google favours is a star rating out of 5 and a price range. The photos are slightly smaller with only 1.5 images showing up in the search result. This Naver comparison with a Google search result really shows just how much Koreans value beautiful images and customer reviews.

How beautiful your cafe is and the presentation of your food and coffee is the difference between someone making a 30 second decision to visit your cafe and somebody scrolling right past, without considering your cafe as a worthy contender for their business.

Well, that was an overly complicated way of explaining something quite simple. All you need to do to figure this trend out is to search the hashtag ‘카페스크그렘’ (cafestagram) on Instagram and see for your own eyeballs just how serious this cafe interior trend is among Koreans!

Here are some images of the aforementioned cafe and, really, the protagonist of this essay. It is located in Jeju Island and I have, contrary to the objective of this entire post, not linked it’s Naver details. Here is the Instagram page.

Happy cafe hopping, friends! Does anyone else sweat between their forearms and biceps when writing compelling phone essays while exercising? Food for thought xx

 

Öpuff x Pizplz, 오퍼프 x 피플 

Jeju Island, South Korea

 

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 🙂

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!!)

 

 

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

Embroidering a face mask and talking about coronavirus in South Korea

IMG_0047Hey, internet! Hope you are healthy and cool. Last week, I decided to embroider a face mask while talking about coronavirus and upload it on the internet! Why do I do these things? We will never know. The video didn’t go as planned because I couldn’t quite figure out how to talk, think and embroider at the same time.

Nevertheless, I put a video together and uploaded it. I love the process of thinking of a video idea, filming, uploading footage, editing a video and uploading it. I like that the final product has an ending and it doesn’t sit in limbo forever like some of my other creative projects…

The purpose of this video was to put a positive spin on the worldwide health issue and talk about my perspective as a foreigner in South Korea. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires some positive thinking in your day! Thank you for stopping by and don’t forget to subscribe or follow my Instagram or blog!

You can download my pattern if you are feeling inspired and want to embroider your own mask. Click this link to get the PDF! Face Mask Pattern Jo So Ko

정지영커피: Korean Cafe that overlooks the Suwon Fortress

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If you’re located in the Suwon/Yongin area in Korea, visiting the Suwon Fortress is an alternative travel plan to braving the Seoul Subway system to explore Gyeongbokkung and the surrounding Hanok Village. The neighbourhoods surrounding the huge fortress, that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are super trendy yet quiet. The combination of the early spring weather and the lack of customers due to coronavirus made us feel like we were on a mini-vacation. We had a hard time choosing which amazing cafe to go to, but 정지영커피 was our final choice! There were two other couples waiting to go inside when we arrived. The interiors were simple, yet industrial and modern. We had a delicious coffee each and enjoyed the view of the Suwon Fortress from the rooftop while soaking up the afternoon March sun. We were also able to plan our route along the fortress while enjoying our coffee.

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Jung Jiyoung Coffee Roasters

Follow me on Instagram to see more (edited) photos and story updates. I would also love to hear your Korean cafe recommendations, I am always on the lookout for new places to go but they usually just stay saved in my phone for several months before I get there. Wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

 

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!)

Apgujeong’s Elite Keeping Korean Architects in Business

Apgujeong is one of Seoul’s more affluent neighbourhoods. There is no shortage of designer clothes, expensive schools and plastic surgeons. Today, I spent the morning walking around Apgujeong Rodeo Street (not to go shopping because I’m not a bajillionaire). Instead, I admired all of the amazing buildings in the area that house some of the world’s most expensive designer brands.

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As a designer, I looked at these creations in awe. The craftsmanship, the beauty, and the detail were spectacular. With the facades on these buildings, they were worthy of being in every design magazine.

However, when I looked at them as a human, I couldn’t help but feel it was all a bit too… too much. It almost seems like a waste to have all of this design reserved for the filthy rich. It would be great to see more of this incredible creativity distributed around other parts of Seoul. Should this all be centred around one neighbourhood of Seoul? One street for that matter.

City Hall, Lotte Tower, and the DDP are all places that people can enjoy together. They are examples of architecture that enable all walks of life to share the design. Shouldn’t we save our creative energy for everyone to enjoy? I guess not… otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this. One or two amazing buildings in a street, yes, but for every designer brand to have its own unique facade? Come on, guys! It’s too much! But I did appreciate the cool petrol station.