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!

What Christmas (kind of) looks like in Seoul

Merry Christmas one and all! This year, I spent Christmas day with my dreamboat boyfriend in my literal fairytale land; IKEA! But not just any IKEA, IKEA in Seoul! IKOREA! We traversed through the psychological minefield that is IKEA and avoided collecting unnecessary cheap items along the way. However, we did stop for a feast of traditional Christmas day Swedish meatballs and salad. It was very difficult to say no to my second family, cake, but I soldiered on sans cake and continued to lug home a giant blue IKEA bag full of sheets and pillows and complimentary Christmas decorations.

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We travelled home to assemble our new LACK table, a name which completely undersells this bad boy, I mean…it has a shelf. A whole shelf. How could it lack anything… apart from real timber, a lifetime guarantee and structural integrity? It’s fantastic. Then, we feasted on another traditional Christmas day meal: fried chicken and pizza. There is a chain restaurant here in Korea that sells amazing fried chicken and incredible pizza for about $20. The food chain is called ‘Come and claim your reduced life expectancy’. It’s a hoot. It’s important for this unimportant story that I tell you that we ate said chicken on pizza on aforementioned LACK table. This photo is not really “blogger” worthy but it just sets the mood. This is my real life, how could I think about aesthetics when I had all of this food in front of me?

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Finally, we ventured back out into the ice cold outside world and travelled to Cheonggyecheon Stream to see all of the pretty lights along the river and of course the gorgeous Christmas tree of lights. It was a human hot pot with almost every South Korean couple turning up for the occasion. You can see all of them in these images below.

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I had a beautiful Christmas season both in Melbourne and in Seoul. I am so lucky that I was able to spend time being festive in both places with all of the people I love. If you want to see how I celebrated an early Christmas with lunch in Melbourne, check out my previous blog post to compare and contrast and discuss the cultural differences with whoever is closest to you, perhaps your Starbucks Barista. I wish you an insightful and intellectually stimulating conversation. Be merry and be healthy in this new year and may all of your wishes and short-term goals come true! Let me know how you spend your December holiday time from your part of the planet!

An Australian Christmas

Hello Follower. That’s right, you are the sole follower of this blog. Welcome to what an Australian Christmas looks like! It was full of turkey, alcohol, Bailey’s cream and a Disney movie to help us digest the four years worth of food we ate in one sitting.

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A FEAST

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Plum pudding time

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Presents, Tangled and empty champagne glasses

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Saying Annyeong to Melbourne

Last week, I had to say farewell to the people in my Melbourne life and prepare to welcome a new life in Seoul. We celebrated on a gorgeous (yet intermittently-rainy) Melbourne afternoon with a picnic in front of the Royal Exhibition Building (Victoria’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site). I am now in my new home in Seoul writing about this picnic and I am so glad that I was able to celebrate with a truly Australian-style picnic. Dips and crackers, vegemite cheesy scrolls (handmade), yo-yo biscuits, choc-chip cookies, fruits and delicious Pimms cocktails. My posts on this blog shall now be Koreany ones and I shall be chronicling my life as an English teacher in Seoul! Enjoy!

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Gami – Chimaek in Melbourne!

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Hello, Chickens. Last night, my hardworking design pals and I went out to eat so much chicken and beer that I am still feeling the food baby triplets kicking a day later. We all recently completed our Industrial Design Honours projects and had been threatening the idea of a Korean chicken and karaoke night for eight months. (You know, one of those, ‘Oh, gosh, wow, yeah we gotta do that’, kind of circular discussion that never amounts to anything. UNTIL NOW!) We finally did it but replaced the Karaoke part with ten pin bowling. Bowling and Karaoke are basically the same things – hard work and elbow grease will make you a pro but being inadequate and embarrassingly losing will still lead to fun times and mandatory tequila shots all around.

We ate our long-awaited Korean chicken at Gami and I’m happy to report that they serve up a good time and a good chicken. I’m yet to have chicken like this in Korea because these chooks tasted like they had been on a 7-day spa slash yoga “journey” in India and were reluctant to return home. The ones that didn’t extend their Eat Prey Love holidays ended up at Gami and boy am I glad they did. Washed down with some cold beer, kimchi pancakes and shots of straight soju, we had quite the time. Check out Gami’s website here (even if you’re not in Melbourne) it’s such a cute site, wow!! I also didn’t realise how many locations they have in Australia! Go and have a yummy meal, people! They’re great!

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Whole chicken (ft. bones) – Garlic Soy (left) and Sweet Chilli (right)

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We went for another round of self-discovery chick this time with original (top) and really mother f***ing spicy flavour. The spicy chicken sat in a bath of chilli and got lost in its thoughts, letting its fingers go pruney and sultan-ry. Then the chicken was all like, ‘oh gosh, I’d best get out of this chilli-filled tub and slap my frock on, I have a chicken social event to get to’. Little did that chicken know…

Thank you Chris for letting me use your photos! ^_^

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!!!