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!)

Happy belated birthday, Buddha! 서울에서는 석가탕신일

On a lukewarm Friday evening in May, I summoned enough brain and leg power to wander beyond my daily work route of train station to work, work back to train station, and went to Bongeunsa Temple. This miraculous venture just so happened to be around the time of Buddha’s sweet sixteen, so there were lanterns, confused tourists and colours a-plenty. How fortunate and rare that I managed to have this combination of energy, awake-ness and a desire for socialising all at the same time?

I’m currently writing this very important blog post in mid-June and have been sitting on these images and aforementioned boring story without having any clue about Buddha’s Birthday and what it means to the Korean people. After three and a half minutes of strenuous research, I now know that Buddha’s birthday is a celebration for the founder of Buddhism and is celebrated with lantern festivals and lotus flower displays all over the country. It is a long standing tradition in Korea and is a great time for the nation’s Buddhist folk to brush up on their virtues and values and other Buddhism-related jargon. The thousands of meticulously hung lanterns and lotus flowers is a way for Korean Buddhists to light up the sky from their hearts and spread love from South Korea to the rest of the world. What a nice tradition!

If you’re planning on travelling to South Korea in the April/May period within the next thousand years, make sure to mentally bookmark this auspicious occasion in your brain diary. I read that Buddha’s big b-day bash is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar. Between you and I, fellow blog reader, I could not even attempt to try and figure out when that date occurs in earth-calendar times. I trust you to figure that one out on your own. Lunar calendar are riddles that I’ll never be able to solve. Here are the pictures I snapped on my phone after a long day of wrangling 5 year old Korean children and force feeding them a vast and articulate English vocabulary. Everyday is an adventure if you want it to be. Have a great day, friends!

Photos taken on my super Korean Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro 2.58^4 Genius Tennis champion smartphone.

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.

How To: Solo in Seoul

If you’re reading this and are planning a solo trip to Seoul (a Seoulo trip) within the next 14 years, then come and have a sit and let’s look at your potential sightseeing opportunities. This post is more of a nice summary of my visit to Seoul and less of a helpful how-to guide. However, I do really want to help the three people that read my blog in the hopes that it will change their lives forever.

Now, the natural reaction to being alone in Seoul is to cry and curl up into a ball when you realise that couples and lovers are going to rub their happiness in your lonely little face. You must fight this urge, crying will get you nowhere (except everywhere because who doesn’t feel good after a good weep). Their adorable matching couple outfits and their bizarre public displays of gently hitting each other will really get to you after a while. Never fear, I’ve made this list of five things to do to keep busy and help you enjoy this delicious city as a lone soldier in Seoul (lone Seouldier – okay, now I’m done with the Seoul portmanteaus).

1. Walk to the top of Namsan Park

There is a cable car that will take you to the top of this mountain where the N Seoul Tower is located, but physically exerting yourself will drown out the lovey-dovey nonsense that’s taking place at the top. We don’t need to talk about the Love Locks and the Love Tunnel. Just take in the fresh air, the picturesque views and talk to some squirrel friends on the walk up. Once you’ve finished being sad and lonely at the top of the mountain, walk down to Namsan Market and fill up on cheap street food and fake designer bags. You’ll feel cleansed and wholesome.

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2. Go to all of the art galleries. Every last one of them.

Art helps you think about all of the skills you don’t have and your shallow understanding of the world around you. However, it’s fun to look at and affordable (the entry fees, not the art). These are the galleries I personally had the least amount of anxiety in:

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Located in Dongdaemun (obviously). Something is always happening around this part of town. Markets, traffic, people walking! The fun is endless!! Just ask this man with the umbrella!

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Seoul Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Located in Anguk (Not so obvious) They have a student discount!!

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Kumho Museum of Art

Located in Anguk (I’m not too sure where Anguk begins and ends but just walk around and you’ll know what’s what)

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I thought I had more to add to this list of must-visit galleries but I actually didn’t go to that many. I think I was mistaking the large amount of street art, fashion and stylish pedestrians for art galleries. Sorry to disappoint you, my loyal followers. Just walk the streets, you’ll see plenty of arty business.

3. Go to this Sky Garden near Seoul Station

So look, you don’t HAVE to go here, but it’s a fun thing to do when you’re alone at night and is an alternative to eating Pocky in your Pyjamas like a comPlete Plebeian.

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4. Just go to Anguk

It’s really great you won’t regret it and you’ll see lots of things that will make you think you’re in Yosemite when in you are in fact in Anguk (which is in South Korea).

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5. Cosy up in your accomodation and learn Korean

This is not really a tourist attraction per se, but learning a bit of Korean might make your trip a bit more easy breezy. You can absolutely get by with ZERO knowledge of the language but it’s super endearing to throw a few ‘Anyonghaseyo’s and ‘Kamsamnida’s’ around. Who knows, you might enjoy it! Learning two different numbering systems is a truly humbling experience, highly recommend.

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*BONUS ROUND* Alternatively, you could go and make some friends. I’m a bit of a lonely tomato and I wanted to use my trip to Seoul as a mini holiday before beginning my semester at KAIST next week. Hongdae is the best place to go with your pals, it’s super youthful and Korean BBQ-y. You’ll have a jolly good time I tell you.

So that’s my poorly thought out guide to Seoul as a solo traveller. I’m making loneliness jokes at my own expense because I think it’s funny and if you didn’t interpret it that way then perhaps we should tweet each other and discuss it further. I have had such a lovely time in Seoul and I highly recommend experiencing it as a lone wolf. Having the freedom to veer off and meander about added so many surprises to my trip. Even though I got lost everyday and had too much confidence in my human brain compass, I enjoyed every minute of it and who doesn’t want to get a little more sweaty than they should have? If you found this interesting, please read my other posts to read more about each destination. Goodbye for now, Seoul, my sweet, sweaty friend. I will be back to snap you in a few months.

Namsan Park, Seoul

I successfully climbed a mountain today and I’m not quite sure I even know who I am anymore. I’m glad this rare, energised, mountain climbing version of myself decided to climb out from its former trash can house. Boy, was it worth the effort. The sweat I felt dripping down my back and into my shoes was all the more satisfying at the top of Namsan mountain. The scene in Boys Over Flowers where Gu Jun Pyo and Geum Jandi have their date at the Seoul Tower isn’t the only reason I visited Namsan park (ok it definitely is because it’s the cutest episode). But it ALL makes sense as to why they had their date there, there are so many love-related activities (it’s almost sickening). From thousands of couple padlocks with names and dates immortalised onto the Seoul Tower forever, to an actual ‘love tunnel’: this country is drunk in love. Sorry to say it Jay and Bey, South Korea beat you at your own game. On the contrary, there was little old me, covered in a glistening concoction of sweat and sunscreen, buying a souvenir ‘Seoul Tower’ T Shirt all alone.

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Grassy gradients

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The Great Wall of South Korea

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On top of the South of Korea

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Shiny love is way better than regular matte, boring love (dah)

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Lock your love down because god knows we have nothing else to live for

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I love how this photo is jam-packed with bridge features and windows and the colour green and lines and, okay you’ve already scrolled down to the next image, never mind

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DDP, Dongdaemun, Seoul

This blog post is sponsored by this gorgeous sunset view from my apartment. Without this sponsorship, who knows when I would have found the time to write this!? I’ve spent the last week in a cosy little studio apartment overlooking the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). I held off from visiting the plaza until this glorious, miserable + rainy day came along. That was obviously the smartest possible thing to do as someone who loves taking photos, particularly of ZAHA HADID buildings. It’s a breathtaking blob of metal, every angle appears anatomical. From my apartment, it’s red blood cell form slowly morphs into a big, silver bum as you walk closer and closer toward it. I am so blown away by this peach/orb/bum/blood cell/muffin top piece of architecture and so fortunate that I got to see it every single day of my visit to Seoul. The Louis Vuitton exhibition, which is currently on, was as amazing as the building it was housed within. It was a free exhibition and I didn’t take any photographs because I was BUSY looking at LV trunks and bags and pretending I could afford them.

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Rain at the DDP i.e. Optimal time to use it’s shell as a water theme park and slip’n’slide all over it (based on my previous descriptions of the building, I regret saying this)

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This is my body’s exact reaction when people ask me ‘so what do you want to do when you graduate university?’

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Inside the DDP! Sometimes you forget that buildings have to look cool on the inside as well as the outside. I was just expecting it to look like a giant metal shed, alas the Zaha Hadid team had better intentions

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Spotted outside the DDP: Tandem cycling with tandem puppies (could only capture one pup in this pic, but the man had a pup with him too!)

Streets + Peeps (Anguk Edition)

ANGUK, SEOUL 18 AUGUST 2017 – Mark that as the date and location of my head over heels in love falling for South Korea. Also, file that sentence under the ‘my ever-growing evidence of my terrible English language skills’ in Jo’s brain filing cabinet. Anguk felt so right it was almost wrong. I went there for the sole purpose of visiting Gallery Hyundai but my goodness was I in for a treat. You know what, actually, I don’t want to write anything. I know this is a blog but I don’t think typing out a half arse attempt at an “Anguk Review” would do the place justice. Let’s just do some good old fashioned picture captioning.

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Hanboks and mountains – they have more in common than you’d think

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Wineglass vases – so chic, so simple

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So what, I love pot plants on stairs, sue me?

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This lady was in my gosh darn way but she brought this nice pic together so thank you, lady, in the way.

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Cute hands/shuttlecocks/chicken feet/reindeer? The world is your oyster!

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Korean fashion in one photo: linen, modest, bright, comfy fresh, leather accessories, a good sale, dead plant, cute hat. I know, I have been considering becoming a fashion commentator but I think I might be too observant.

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They seem to have a cool bottle recycling scheme going on this country. But what would I know, I can’t understand a damn thing!! I communicate solely through the universal language of colour and composition and good timing.

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