Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sights of Seoul Days 4 and 5

Our final morning at IS@K Guesthouse in Itaewon dawned just as hot and miserable as the last few days.  That, combined with the soreness in our feet from walking for so long in the same shoes for three days caused us to make it a very lazy morning.

That is, except for my run down to Paris Baguette to pick up breakfast and get cash out of the ATM to pay for our room since he adds a 10% service charge if you pay credit....

On the way to Paris Baguette I got stopped by some people doing a survey of female razor handles.  It took about five minutes and I walked away with two free disposable razor, which was perfect for my plans for that evening.

When I got back I paid and then Elli and I ate before relaxing as we waited for MY to arrive.

He got there a little after 1100, but since check out wasn't until 1400 and our only plan for the daytime was to go to Seoul Tower we decided to just chill in our room and play cards for an hour or two.

When we finally left the guesthouse we went to the center of Itaewon and caught one of the three buses that goes up to Seoul Tower.  Last time MY and I hiked up to it, but the weather was much nicer then and we weren't carrying a backpack full of clothes...

Also, last time MY and I just wandered around the base of the tower, this time we went up into it.

We also did the teddy bear museum.
We still had a serious hill to climb from the bus stop to the tower.
These crazy people brought their suitcase with  them... He pushed it and she just took pictures.  The couple on the left.
Seoul Tower
Elli with....something...Kero-chan maybe?
People need to learn to read or look at pictures...
That's Itaewon down there.
Our tickets!
MY with Hanbook Bear.
I didn't know bears could grow beards...
A beary marketplace.
Me with my new friends!
Emperor Bear!
Okay, I tried to take a picture with Elli, but she kept making weird this is the best you get of the three of us...Sorry for the sort of weird was very bright and hot and muggy...
We didn't take any pictures up in the tower because of the glass and the smog, it just wasn't worth it.

After coming back down we all decided it was about time for lunch so we caught the next bus off the mountain, which happened to take us down to Myeongdong (where Elli and I had the ice cream on Day 2).

We got food on the second floor of some building.  Just a little Korean restaurant, nothing special.

After that we walked a bit and then caught the subway to Hongdae Station.  We walked around for a LONG time trying to find a cafe with an empty table big enough for three.

We ended up finding this cafe/bar down a side street, just one street over from the Hobbit Hole Brunch Cafe from Day 3.  It's listed on the map in that post.

We were all rather grumpy with heat-addled brains by the time we found the place we did.

Luckily they were nice and empty, while still not looking creepily deserted.

Unluckily they were saving money by having fans on and windows open instead of using AC.

The drinks were good though and really cold, so that helped cool us down enough so that the temperature was pleasant, not miserable...

Yes, those coolers are full of beers.

Go Fish!  Followed by Crazy 8's!
While we were chilling there SK texted me to saw he was almost to Hongdae Station.  So we paid our bill and went to Exit 9 to wait for him.

I didn't even bother trying to spot his head of black hair in the sea of black hair surrounding Exit 9 (it's the number one meeting spot for people in Hongdae).  Instead I found  a nice step for to stand on so I'd be above the crowd and hoped he'd be able to pick out blonde among a sea of black.

Sometime's it's really useful to be in a country where your hair color is unusual, though I used to find myself disliking it, mainly because I just wanted to blend in.

I've sort of given up at that.

SK found us and there were a few awkward minutes as we walked to a Korean Barbecue place because I've never actually met SK in person before.

We've talked on Skype and we played Diablo and Diablo II together, he reads my blog, and I look at his picture blog (which is beautiful).  Though the blog part is only available if you have an account and he gives you permission.

After we got settled in at barbecue places the awkwardness left, though MY and SK found it weird to talk to each other in English.

Awesome times were had by all!
My and me!

After dinner we went to Baskin Robbins and got ice cream.

Then it was off to a PC-bang (internet cafe), where we all played Starcraft together.  We played about two games and then we all parted ways.  SK took the subway back to his family's home (he actually lives in Daejeon) and MY, Elli, and I walked down to Happy Day.

Happy Day is a 찜질방 (jjimjilbang), which is a public bath and sauna.  The bathing areas are segregated, so we went in, paid, and Elli and I went to the women's baths, while MY went to the men's baths.

We were each given a bracelet with a key and an electronic lock on it.  The key was used to unlock our foot locker by the entrance to the baths.  After wandering through a little bit of a maze we found the main area.  

During the day there's a woman that sells toiletries and snacks, but she was gone by the time we got there (around midnight).  

Elli and I found our lockers, put our stuff in, bought shampoo from the vending machine, got undressed, and wandered into the showers.

It was this giant room with a bunch of sitting showers, some standing ones, some baths, and an enclosed area where some old women in underwear will scrub you down or give you a massage.

Since it was my first visit to a jjimjilbang I didn't feel up to the scrub or massage.  Instead, Elli and I just used the sitting showers.  We were going to used the baths but some old frog faced woman decided she was going to stare at us and sneer, no matter what - which is EXTREMELY rude.

I was too tired to deal with it and stare her down so we just left without using the baths.  We put on our pink shorts and shirts - the ones all women wore in the jjimjilbang, men got orange, and we went into the sauna area to find MY.

He gave us a tour.  There were several saunas, each a different type.  There was also an ice room, workout room, arcade, and restaurant.

For sleeping there were stacks of mats and pillows in the main area for you to grab.  There was also a men's only room and a women's only room.  These were much quieter, darker, and warmer than the main area.

Elli couldn't stand the light in the main area so she went to sleep in the women's only room while MY and I settled down in the main area.

I woke up a couple times from the heat, and each time there were more people sleeping there.

When we arrived there were about 20-30 people.  By the time we left there were a couple hundred at least.

When we all woke we went to chill in the ice room, then we took showers and got out of there.

For breakfast there wasn't much open yet, so we ended up at Dunkin' Donuts.  I've eaten more there in the past year than I have in the rest of my life.

After breakfast we took the subway over to DongSeoul Bus Terminal.  We went to a PC-bang and played some more Starcraft for a bit.

Then we grabbed lunch at a Korean place.

After lunch we still had about 45 minutes until our bus to Changwon so we sat in the cafe at the terminal and ate this:
Super sweet, but yummy.  Patbingsu I believe.

While playing more cards.

We caught the 1700 bus back to Changwon.  It was hard leaving MY after being able to see him for five days straight, but having Elli with me made it easier.

We arrived in \Changwon at around 2100.  We took a bus back to my apartment and thus ended my five days of vacation in Seoul.

It was glorious.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sights of Seoul Day 3

Well, Friday promised to be as hot as Thursday, if not hotter.  Elli and I decided we were going to take it a little easier that day and do less walking.

Our plan for the day was:
1. Get a good breakfast.
2. Go to the Hobbit Hole Brunch Cafe in Hongdae.
3. Go to a cat cafe in Hongdae.
4. Meet with MY at Jamsil Station and go get dinner.

Now, Hongdae is one of the more popular areas of Seoul that I hadn't been to yet.  It's centered around Hongik University and is known for having lots of artsy places and cafes to visit during the day and lots of clubs and such to go at night.

But I'll get back to Hongdae, for now let me do things in order.

For breakfast I decided we'd try this brunch place MY took me to on my first visit to Seoul.  It was about 1030 when we reached it, so I figured it would be open.

It didn't open for another thirty minutes and Elli and I were hot and starving.  So we ended up walking up the street and eating at Paris Baguette again.  It was a different one though.

We sat there and ate while I planned out our travels for the day.  When we finished we walked back to the center of Itaewon and the subway station.  I decided to be adventurous and we walked through the largest hill in Itaewon instead of around it...
And we weren't quite at the top yet.
Elli was ready to kill me.

Actually, I was ready to kill myself.

Those were some pretty nasty hills.

After this we took the subway.

Now, for what happens next to make sense I need to give some history.  Hongdae is not an actual district.  In fact, it's a slang term for Hongik University in Korean.  It merges Hongik and the Korean word for University together.

We (really I) decided to do the Hobbit Hole Brunch Cafe first.

I had the following directions:

Okok I will TRY to explain it. If you know where the cafe boutique street in hongdae is, it will make things easier. Ok…I’ll just do this properly.
From hongdae station 9: turn left. Walk till road forks in 3 directions and the way forward, while possible, curves slightly to the right. Turn left and walk along the one way road with metal gates that arch over the cars and cement wall art installations. Turn right at the 7-11(also a nail Salon at the corner). This is the street I first mentioned. Walk up the hill an take a left at the side road BEFORE the next 7-11 you see. The road before, not right at the 7-11, since it is at a corner. Quite confusing. Anyways, it’s on the street. Good luck!

Now, I couldn't find Hongdae Station on a map, so I decided that they just must mean the biggest station in the Hongdae area.  Since I saw three stations and two only had four exits according to my not-loading phone, while the third had ten.

We went to Hapjeong Station and used exit 9.  We couldn't turn left - there was a road there.  There was no road that forked in three directions anywhere nearby.

I was seriously confused and it was hot and hard to think clearly.  We wandered around for a while, Elli was a trooper, but she was getting annoyed.

I started to think I had the wrong subway station, so we started walking to the Hongik University Station while I tried looking up other directions on my phone, but could find nothing in English.  Finally we ended up at Hongik Station, where I learned that it had now merged with an express subway to Incheon Airport and that it now had nine exits, not five.  Though the significance of this was lost on my tired and hot brain.

See where this is going?

Once I had the correct exit the directions actually got us to the cafe, after a wrong turn or two because of the location of the next 7-11.

Once there we relaxed in the AC he turned on for us and just enjoyed ourselves immensely.  We were the only customers there and I rather enjoyed it.

Finally!  After an hour or so of searching!
Green Tea Latte in an AWESOME mug.
We stayed there for about an hour just enjoying ourselves.  I learned while sitting there what Hongdae actually meant and I found quite a few sights giving directions to Gio Cat, the largest cat cafe in Hongdae.

I got my directions from the Official Site of Tourism in Korea, so I was sure they were good.

They weren't.

Hongik Univ. Station, Seoul Subway Line 2, Exit #6 >> Follow the street with the Smoothie King in front of the Hongik Univ. entrance

Every site I could find about Gio Cat on my phone that gave directions told us to go to exit 5 or exit 6 at Hongdae/Hongik University Station.

There was nothing over there!

No Smoothie King, no Gio Cat, it was terribly frustrating.

I found myself speaking in a very unladylike manner to myself and wishing someone would just put up a MAP, since then I could figure out my own directions.

I eventually found a police station and we went in to ask where Hongik University was.  He showed us on the big map on the wall and we went there.

Then we had another problem.

The Smoothie King isn't easily visible from the street when you come from the University entrance.

After a little more wandering and seeing this gem:

It's between Hongik University entrance and Gio Cat, you can't miss it.
We finally found it.

Its the red sign.
Before I talk about what we found there let me give you a little map, in case anyone else is frustrated by directions and just wants to see where these places are.  The third star is the cafe we ended up at on Saturday, which will be in the next post.

Email me if you want a larger copy of the map.  The new exits 5 and 6 are north of the Hobbit Cafe.  Actually, I goofed, switch Hobbit Cafe and Cafe on Saturday.
There, now that crazy directions are out of the way...


Elli made a friend!
So did I....Achoo!
Haha!  Scared it away!
I like this friend much better!
His skin felt like velvet, totally awesome.
My friend!

We could take pictures while there, but no flash, so I'm sorry if some pictures are a little blurry.  

I'm allergic to cats, though not as badly as I used to be.  We stayed there for about an hour and I had watery eyes for most of the time, but it wasn't too bad as long as I stayed away from the furry cats.  Luckily the only one that truly grew attached to me was the hairless one.  Actually, the fact that they had hairless cats is what led me to pick this cat cafe, because there are several more in Hongdae.

I think it could tell I was allergic to the others.

When we got to Gio Cat we went in a little room, trade our shoes for slippers, and used hand sanatizer.  Then we bought a ticket from a machine.  The ticket was what let us in and also got us a coffee or soda.  

It was a very relaxing atmosphere and we both enjoyed it.  Elli had a great time with the cats while I petted my little friend and read on my phone.

Though I wish there hadn't been forty cats, even if two of them were hairless.

When we left we wandered back to the subway station (Hongik University #9) and took Line 2 to Jamsil Station.  

We were on the subway for about 45 minutes and only got to sit down for about half of that.  

When we arrived at Jamsil we were about forty minutes early and it was beginning to rain, so we made a dash to an Angel-in-us (coffee shop, like Starbucks) and chilled there while we waited for MY. 

My throat was starting to hurt again and I was afraid of a relapse so I got some hot tea.

When MY showed up we walked to a restaurant he recommended.  It was a mix of Chinese food and Korean seafood.  

It was awesome, though Elli said her dish was too spicy.  I split Black Noodles and some sort of clam soup with MY, as we're wont to do.
Elli's food and our side dishes.
There were so many clams!!!!  It was insane!
Min Young - My 자기야
Elli - My 동생
After this we went back to our guesthouse in Itaewon and relaxed for a bit.  Then MY headed back to his place and Elli and I slept the sleep of the exhausted.

And so ended our third day in Seoul and our last night in our guesthouse.  

We had other plans for Saturday night...