VIDEO | All Around Seoul

VIDEO | All Around Seoul

In one day in Seoul, I was able to:

– Try out the coffee and scone at one of Seoul hippest coffee shop, Fritz Coffee Company.
– Do a little shopping at Hongdae
– Play with dogs at Bau House Dog Cafe
– Have an afternoon coffee at Coffee Libre
– Have a roast lobster with cheese dinner at Myeongdong.

If only Manila has Seoul’s efficient transport system…


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Ginger Pig In Hongdae, Seoul

Ginger Pig In Hongdae, Seoul

After Fritz Coffee Company, I took the subway to Hapjeong Station to catch the opening of Bau House. The article I saw on the internet said it opens at 11:30 am and I was trying to catch it as soon as starts to play with (still) energetic dogs. I tracked the perfectly good directions only to find out I was actually 2 hours early. Bau House opens at 1:30 pm on weekdays. Note to self: Double check everything you read on the internet.

Good thing I remembered this was a station away from Hongdae, a university district also known for arts and shopping. So I caught the train to the next station and killed some time with unnecessry shopping.

After two hours, and two bags and a pair of glasses without prescription, I decided to just enjoy the lovely fall weather and walk to Hapjeong instead of taking the train. It was just a station away, a straight road as mapped out by google. Also, I was hungry. I saw a chicken place near Hapjeong. Maybe, I can eat along the way.

I was looking forward to the fried chicken when after a couple of blocks of walking, a bright marquee sign caught my eye.

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Ginger Pig. Pig. Pig eh. Automatic.

I went it and an urban industrial interior welcomed me — tolix chairs, wooden tables, exposed pipes, brick walls. Also they had parts of pig as wall decor. I felt like I belonged. I settled down in a booth and asked for the advertised ginger pork cutlet.

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As with other korean meals, I was served a cold water in a canister and banchan as soon as I was seated. And then after a few moments, this monster arrived.

ginger-pig-lunch-set

This fried pork cutlet was huge — like the size of my face. It was well-cooked, juicy and meaty in spite of the thick breading. I ordered it with the original sauce, which I can only liken to the sauce you slather your katsu with in Yabu. And it’s just 6,000 KRW — 300 pesos for all this goodness.

Ginger Pig was halfway between Hongdae and Hapjeong. I have a good kilometer to go before I reach Bau House. And since I practically inhaled my meal, it was a very welcomed and needed walk.


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Sinchon Graffiti Tunnel | If these walls…

So what do I like to do when I have a free day in Seoul?
Stare at walls.

In the middle of a week of day-long tours, I found myself a free day. The kids are on a guided tour to see DMZ and after sending them off, I mapped my route to Hongdae. I’ve been to Seoul twice but never had the time nor the interest to visit this youthful, artsy section of the city. We stay at Hyehwa, which pretty much has a similar collegiate vibe — young and pretty much artsy in its own charming way. The sidestreets of Hyehwa-dong is home to many small theatres and if only I understood Korean, watching a show or two — a night! — wouldn’t be such a bad idea. But with my daily morning walks in what I call “my neighborhood” everytime I visit Seoul, and practically knowing it now like the back of my hand, I felt it’s time to explore other dongs.

So why Hongdae?
Because one, Hello Kitty Cafe. And two, vandalism.

One stop short of Hongik Station on the inner circle line is Sinchon station, still very much in the middle of Seoul’s Student District. The indie, free spirit vibe is alive and tolerated, if not encouraged, in the area. And you know why I know that? Because I actually came here for a vandalism-covered tunnel.

There’s no shame in telling you I circled entire blocks and actually thought about giving up the hunt for the Sinchon underground tunnel. (And because we luuurrve cliches, there’s the fun in adventures, right? Getting lost? Riiiighhht.) Being a university area, there were a lot of English-speaking locals here but they were a little bit puzzled and confused why I was looking for a “tunnel”. Also, the lone website I found on it had the direst of directions which make no sense unless you suddenly, finally stumble upon the tunnel and the directions were correct all along.

“Look for the Megabox beside Sinchon terminal (dark blue line). The tunnel is just beside it.”

Sinchon terminal on the Seoul Subway System is on the green, inner circle line. Sinchon terminal on the KTX railroad system is on the dark blue line. The Megabox is a department store, a mall in a shape of a, uhm, megabox and right beside it, under its shadow, is a fenced up, weed-filled parcel of land where the tunnel lies.

It’s elusive until it’s there. And then, it’s just there, with one or two people passing by every 10 or so minutes. It’s well lighted, the graffiti looks fresh and vibrant and just waiting for an instant profile pic shoot.

I like graffiti. It’s independent and current. And unlike the kind we see here in Manila, these ones in Sinchon are art pieces — well-curated, as if you can’t vandalize here until you deem yourself worthy of real estate at the tunnel wall. Most of the murals are subversive, subtly expressing dissent to the signs of the times without going anarchist or annoying. I, particularly, love it because it’s temporary. The ones I saw on the website no longer exist and these ones probably won’t too in a week, month, year’s time. It’s free, in every sense of the word.

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Hello Kitty Cafe (Hongdae, Seoul) | Hello Kitty Overload.

 

When Sanrio recently shocked the world by announcing that Hello Kitty is not a cat, I spent the whole day fielding questions from friends whether or not I have heard the news already. I got tagged over social media a lot and people were really concerned of my opinion. Because in my world, it is very much public knowledge that this is the type of news I actually care about. I am a grown ass woman who loves Hello Kitty. I would eat a broccoli if it’s in the shape of Hello Kitty.

Or maybe not eat it. But I’d take a picture of it, definitely. Then, I’d post it everywhere with #Hellokitty. But, still, no to broccoli.

The first time I applied for a visa for Korea, on the line where it asked what my purpose for going was, I wrote down that I wanted to visit the Hello Kitty cafe. It might sound to be the shallowest of reasons for going to Seoul, but it’s a reason that rings most true to me. I really wanted to see the Hello Kitty cafe.

And I did. The neighborhood we stay at in Seoul had a Hello Kitty cafe. It was a short two minute walk from the hotel. And yes, my head exploded.  And I never got tired of it. The next year I went to Seoul, I made another trip there. It was becoming an annual pilgrimage of sorts. Me, Seoul and the Hello Kitty cafe in Hyehwa-dong.

So imagine my shock when I visited recently and the neighborhood Hello Kitty cafe was gone! On its place, the building barely stripped with the too sweet pink paint job, was a popcorn shop. Who would buy a boring popcorn over a waffle in the shape of Hello Kitty?!?

So on our free day out in Seoul, J, my sister-in-law and a fellow Hello Kitty lover, and I hunted down the other branch of Hello Kitty in the university area of Hongdae. Unlike the one in Hyehwa, this one’s a bit tricky to find, or that’s what the blogs say when I was researching it. There were people getting lost in the middle of nowhere Hongdae looking for it. I was weary, but I am determined. I am going to have overpriced cafe latte (and I don’t even take milk with my coffee) with Hello Kitty’s face on it.

Armed with a map from our friend Google and our sheer determination, we rode the subway and exited at Hongik University Station. A good walk around a couple of corners and upon reaching a busy alleyway on Hongdae, I thought, ‘This is where we are about to get lost.” That is until we saw a sickly saccharine pink painted on a wall on an even smaller alleyway and there, perched on a steep incline, is a 3-floor Hello Kitty cafe.

You couldn’t miss it. A steady crowd keeps coming by the cafe front and taking a clear shot of it was a pain because it really is a tourist-draw. Inside, the counter welcomes every Hello Kitty lover, and there was a sense of giddiness on every individual that enters the shop. This was a bigger, busier and Hello Kitty-er cafe than the one previously in Hyehwa.

J ordered the caramel waffle while I had the banana chocolate waffle. We both had the cafe latte. This was lunch.


As you would expect it — and I would be disappointed if it was anything less — everything was either Hello Kitty shaped or in Hello Kitty pink. I mean, if Hello Kitty vomitted, and it splattered all over the walls, and tables and food, this is how I imagine it would look like. This place is exactly what every Hello Kitty lover dreams of.

Hello Kitty Cafe. I was here.


Hello Kitty Cafe

How to get there: Get off at Hongik University Station (Inner Circle Line) Exit 9, walk towards the intersection then turn left. Walk straight then turn right at Tony Moly. Walk straight up the alley staying on the left side. There will be a small alley with a Hello Kitty pink wall. Turn left on that alley and you will immediately see the Hello Kitty Cafe.

Tip: If you somehow have no time to hunt this one down, there is a small Hello Kitty Cafe in Incheon Airport right next to Gate No. 23. 🙂

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