I just ended my last post with a note that said I’ll be publishing both my SoKor posts before the month ended, and here I am more than a month later, still working on getting those posts up. Haha!
With the help of my credit card miles and some discount codes, I spontaneously booked another trip to Seoul for free! It’s not going to happen within 2019 but still, I figured out that it was about time to work on this one since I’ve already booked my next Seoul trip. I don’t wanna go on another trip without having published my previous ones because my backlog just keeps on growing. Ugh. Aren’t you guys tired of reading about my solo trips to Seoul?
Unlike all my previous visits to Seoul where there were certain tourist spots that I needed to visit, for my birthday I simply just did whatever I fancied on doing. I had six full days in Seoul and I spent them leisurely (aka mostly eating).
WHERE I STAYED
I have always stayed in an Airbnb whenever I am in Seoul. But since it was my birthday, I gave myself a “splurge” budget to work with and found this nice hotel in Hongdae. For me, the biggest difference between an Airbnb apartment and a hotel is the fact that I can leave the bed undone and get back after a long day of roaming around to a clean room with fresh sheets. Ah, this is literally the life I have always wanted to live.
The hotel was within reasonable walking distance from Hongik University Station which was great. However, I made the mistake of not checking which exits had an elevator so I needed to carry my luggage through a couple sets of stairs. I cannot stress how grateful I am with my decision to start working out because I managed all the heavy lifting (literally – this was 23 kilos!). *pats own back*
I feel like at this point, everyone who has been subscribed to my blog is aware about how much I like booking aesthetically pleasing hotels. 9 Brick Hotel is not only easy on the eyes, the location is excellent for anyone who enjoys a quiet retreat in the midst of bustling Hongdae. The only downside was that since I took a red-eye flight, I got to the hotel at 7 AM and I was not allowed to check in yet. I had to spend a couple of hours at the Angel-in-us coffee shop to charge my phone and take a nap.
I booked the Deluxe Double room which was not their cheapest room. Since I was traveling during off-peak season, the prices were quite reasonable and within my splurge budget.
I found it funny that whoever cleaned my room tucked this sparkly unicorn that I won from the crane machine.
WHAT I DID
The question should be – what did I not do? Unless I booked an activity that started early, I went and slept in. One of the things I like doing while on vacation is to wake up naturally. The experience is just different when you feel refreshed and not roused by the alarm. Since there was a fridge in my hotel room, I also went and stocked up my fridge with an assortment of flavored beer and snacks.
I went on another pub crawl. Since I travel alone a lot, I like to go on pub crawls to meet new people (if that makes any sense). The hosts would usually be talented in merging people together to make for a fun environment, but for some reason, this pub crawl fell a little flat for me. I don’t know what about it I didn’t enjoy as much as I did with the other pub crawls I’ve done before but I did make friends which was what I came for. We left by the third club and the Koreans in our small group brought us around to where locals party the night away.
Since I was staying within Hongdae, I walked around the area whenever I can’t think of anything to do. The perks of staying in a university area is that there are a lot of hip cafes and affordable restaurants within the area. You can also find convenience stores everywhere, and you can see people any time of the day (although the least number of people are usually early in the morning lol). There are also a lot of stores filled with local products, albeit their target audience are obviously students, so the quality wasn’t excellent but the prices are. 😛
I love wasting money on arcade games so when I found this arcade building, I went in for the crane machine and Mario Kart. On my sixth attempt, I actually won this sparkly unicorn! Lucky!!!! Funny story – after I won this sparkly unicorn, I went in a fortune teller stall with my crane machine win high. The fortune teller then proceeded to ask for my birth date (as well as the time of my birth) and then made me pick cards out of the deck. There were thorough explanation of each card with accordance to my birth chart (???), and for some reason, a lot of it was weirdly accurate. And while I know that there’s a lot of psychological explanations of how fortune tellers can seem to tell the truth, when she told me that I’m lucky with all aspects of my life except romance (for this year), I believed her. Haha!
I went to a Korean Tea Party with a Flower Tea Maker and I was the only one who booked the experience. Kitae picked me up from the station with his car, and we drove up the winding roads of Changsin-dong to his place. Since Kitae brewed tea seriously as a hobby, he decided to learn more about tea making at the royal tea academy in Korea. I didn’t even know that something like that exist. All the previous emperors (kings?) employ a royal historian where every single thing they did was recorded, and part of that record was what kind of tea he drinks along with the snacks he ate it with. Decades later, tea enthusiasts then took those to recreate. Tea and history!
Kitae collects his own seasonal tea leaves and preserves them to make tea. He also buys seasonal produce for the tea snacks he will make with the tea. Honestly, I’m not even a tea connoisseur and yet I was impressed.
Kitae’s wife also holds a cake decorating class (also in their house) using plant-based ingredients. They are both chemical engineers who use their knowledge to bring to life their interest in using different plants. No artificial chemicals are used!
The tea he brews and serves his guests all depend on the season. I had a lot of cold tea since it was summer, as well as cold tea snacks. Then he taught me how to make Korean rice flower pancakes and we made it together.
I went on the Fortress Night Hike & Taste of Tradition in a romper. Haha! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’d know that I’m not a fit person. I don’t even like doing outdoor activities. But I realized that since I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I might as well go do something that will awaken my sleeping muscles lol. Before I booked this activity, I read through the reviews and a lot of them said that the hike was good for beginners. Hence, I wore a cute romper to hike in. While I was waiting at the meetup point, three other guys who booked the experience arrived in workout clothes and that’s when I realized that I should have probably donned something else other than my cute romper. Really bad idea. I went down that mountain with my legs filled with mosquito bites. However, after the hike, we went to this nice restaurant around the Jongno area that served kimchi and cheese pancakes as appetizers while we drank different kinds of makgeolli (rice wine). I would definitely recommend this experience!
On my actual birthday, I kicked off the day with a good cry before heading to the Create signature perfume with a perfumer activity in Bukchon Hanok Village. The perfume workshop was held in a refurbished hanok. I was 10 minutes late but when I got there, I was met with only Lina and the staff. As it turns out, everyone else got lost too. Creating my own perfume involved alternately sniffing thirty different scents (base note, mid note and top note) along with a canister of coffee beans. I didn’t realize that I would get a mild headache from having to sniff so many scents within a short span of time, but I did enjoy the experience. The best part was coming home to a bottle of my own scent!
When my mom was alive, I would always have a homecooked meal for my birthday. Since she’s not around anymore, I instead went on a cooking class for my birthday. I was initially wearing pearl hairpins but while waiting at the meetup point, I had two separate people approach me to ask for directions (I don’t even look Korean???) that I decided to remove them. Surprisingly, it worked! I went on the tour with a French couple and this experience was also a gift for her husband’s birthday (who loved to cook Korean food). It was a pleasant coincidence!
After the market tour, Junghee (@hello_k_cooking on instagram) led us to her beautiful home where the cooking class is held. We made bibimbap, Korean pancakes, dakgalbi, and soybean soup. It was my first time to actually participate in a cooking class and I now want to do it again. Plus, I got to flip a pancake (successfully!) for the first time ever. (If you watch the video below, a clip of it is in there somewhere)
Junghee was sweet enough to save me a cake from her baby’s 100-day party and she surprised me with a cake. After years of not blowing on a candle, I finally got to do it again. Thank you, Junghee. 🙂 (She also sent me a lot of info about Busan when she found out that I was headed to Busan for the first time!)
Took a lot of photobooth pictures! The only downside in traveling solo for people like me who sucks at using the camera self-timer is that I can’t get nice photos. Fortunately, there are tons of cute photobooths in Hongdae that I pop in for a quick photo to commemorate the day.
HOW MUCH DID I EAT
You guys already know that I love to eat. So here’s a list of places I ate in while I was in Seoul. I initially made a list of cafes and restaurants to visit, but ended up not visiting more than half of them because I got full.
The only reason I even found myself in Angel-in-us Coffee is because they are open 24 hours. Since I couldn’t check in early, I asked the reception if there’s a coffee shop that’s already open (lots of shops in Seoul open late) and this was the nearest one. Good thing is that they also have sockets in all their tables. This was on a Friday morning and there were tons of people who obviously had a hangover that were trying their best to feel better. Haha!
I had vegan lunch at SanChon which is the most famous vegan temple food restaurant in Seoul. I arrived upon opening (mostly because I didn’t really have anything to do yet) and boy, was I in for a treat. I’m not vegan nor vegetarian. I love beef. But I thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes. The restaurant itself had great ambiance and all the dishes were presented nicely. Filling to the eyes and to your stomach!
Unless you can write Hangeul, you can’t really find this place in Google Maps but you can check out their instagram for their address (@joseon2018) which was what I did. A friend who ate here multiple times throughout their trip even met the owner’s dogs! This place is also open 24 hours a day and serves really good bibimbap. I wanted to try a lot of dishes on their menu but their servings are HUGE.
I went to this pastry shop that was on my list but they were closed (which was a common theme throughout this trip) so I ended up in this basement cafe a few steps away from the hotel, Cafe Grange. I am a sucker for dessert and those interiors.
Before going shopping in Myeongdong, I went to Myeongdong Kyoja for noodles! This noodle shop has been tried and tested and have never failed me. 😀
Every single time I’m in South Korea, the trip will never be complete without dropping by at Yoogane for their famous cheese dakgalbi. Ugh. I guess that’s enough to tell everyone just how much I love cheese dalgalbi.
What I learned during my first visit to the Gwangjang Market was that you need to visit this with someone. I couldn’t really try a lot since I couldn’t finish everything and I’m not a fan of wasting food.
For my birthday, I knew I didn’t want cake but I still wanted dessert so I searched for a great dessert place with a tasting menu. When I found JL Dessert Bar, I immediately made a reservation. Their tasting menu comes with 6 different kinds of dessert and I LOVED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I happened to visit while the rest of the staff are on their day off, so it was only me and Chef Justin Lee the entire time I was there and he even explained all the dishes that came to my table. 10/10. 5 stars.
I decided to document parts of my trip so I made video clips of me without realizing it was going to be so long. I didn’t list one of the activities I did while I was in Seoul because I have no words about this beyond I am uncoordinated as f*ck. I’ve included clips of it in this video so let me know if you have any feedback. Haha!
So that’s it for this year’s trip to Seoul. Up next – Busan! 🙂