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

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!)

An Afternoon Well Spent in Gangnam, South Korea

I had another social day today, this time we were in Gangnam. We started our adventure in a Vietnamese restaurant called ‘Tam Tam’, which had queues of people waiting to be seated. We enjoyed our soupy pho noodles up at a really high table – the waiter literally had to push our chairs in for us because the seats were so high! The food was delish, but we had to be very careful after eating not to roll our ankles whilst trying to come back down to earth. You can see in this pic, the chairs are at the waiter’s hipbone!

Our teacher fashioned some makeshift chopstick holders out of napkins! So gorgeous!

This is a hill that my friend kindly escorted me down. It was so steep and I was in heeled boots, not a great combo!!


After lunch, we moved onto a cafe nearby! Two of my friends had flavourless tea and had to send them back. I don’t remember the name of the cafe so I can’t tell you. Despite their drinks being a disappointment, we sat here for hours and had a good quality chat. The cafes in Gangnam are so cosy in the wintertime. You can sit there for hours without being guilted into leaving or buying another drink.

How To:

If you’re wanting to explore the cafes and restaurants in Gangnam, go to Gangnam station on line 2, take exit 11, kep walking straight and head right up the small alleyways! There are an endless range of food and shopping options!

Second Hand Bookstore in Seoul (서울책보고)

Today, I went to the incredible second-hand bookstore ‘서울책보고’ along with my friends from Korean class! They have a variety of both Korean and English books. If you are living in Seoul and struggling to buy books to read in English, this might be a great option for you. Bonus points: it has beautiful arched shelves that lead you through a tunnel along the entire store!

As an expat in Korea, it’s hard to get my hands on English novels, so I picked up 3 to keep me going next year on public transport. I’m not sure that it is wise to buy more books a week before moving house, but I am still in the store so I may not end up buying them all (edit: I didn’t). Keep scrolling through the images to see the directions on how to get there!

How to Get There

1, Ogeum-ro, 14, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Bus Jamsil Naru Station (about 608m walk after getting off)-342, 3318, 3412, 4318, 16

Subway Line2 -Jamsil Naru Station Exit 1

(Information from their website http://www.seoulbookbogo.kr/front/ )

Christmas Has Come to 별마당도서관 (Starfield Library at COEX Mall)

I quickly snapped these images to send to my mum yesterday. We both have a vested interest in any form of ephemeral public art. If I’m ever wondering through Coex, I keep her updated on the changing sculptures at the centre of the amazing library.

I wanted to keep up my blogging streak despite the fact that I’m not in love with these images. This morning we went apartment hunting and signed a new lease so I haven’t had a lot of time. I’m very excited to move to a different area that is a little bit outside of Seoul. As much as I love Seoul, I did start to wish we were more connected to nature. Our new neighbourhood will be perfect! I even saw a great running path along the stream near our new house. Oooh la la.

Back to the photos… be sure to check out the christmas display at the Coex Starfield Library. I might try and go back there at a time when there are less people around! I hope you’re enjoying your christmas festivities and preparations.

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!

Waveon Coffee

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!

A Morning Walk in Seoul, South Korea

Toto, we are not in Autumn anymore. We are well on our way to a freezing cold, perpetually-having-numb-hands Korean winter. Here are some pictures from my morning stroll in Seoul where I soaked up some Vitamin Sunshine and clean air. A blue sky in winter is a miracle.

My husband and I will soon be leaving this neighbourhood and I can’t wait to find a new place to walk around! Despite the brown grass and lack of leaves, I could still find the beauty in the fading Autumn. Just look at that big flight of pigeons!

I really liked the colours of these bridges together!

I only had to wear 4 layers on top and 2 layers on the bottom!

I wrote a blog post about how seasons in Seoul affected my mood! You can read it here.

If you want to see more about my mundane life, you can follow my instagram account!