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Travel

An Afternoon in Insa-dong

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Not too long ago, I spent an afternoon in Insa-dong. Insa-dong’s one of Seoul’s most artistic and tourist friendly neighborhoods. I went there with my friend to have a delicious meal, eat some more, walk around, and take pictures.

The afternoon began with a detour by Gyeongbok Palace because I wanted to explore the streets around the palace and I also forgot where Insa-dong was. While wandering about the palace, we encountered a concert with a pre-historic theme and a flee market. In Seoul, there’s something interesting going on every day, everywhere.

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Our first stop was a restaurant with a traditional Korean atmosphere, Insa-dong Gu Jip (인사동 그집). I ordered bibimbap with gang doenjang, instead of gochujang, the red chilli paste it’s often served with now. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the food because I deleted them. Just know that my dish both looked and tasted delicious. My friend ordered cold noodles. They were okay.

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After the meal and before our next food stop, we decided to walk around to let what we’d just eaten digest. One of the more interesting things we saw was a take-out cocktail stand. On a Sunday, this is something you’d never see in parts of the States as alcohol can only be sold in certain stores and it’s illegal to sell on Sunday. But in Seoul, you can buy hard liquor on the street and walk around sipping it from something resembling an IV bag.

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My friend is a big fan of O’sulloc’s (오설록) green tea, so we went to the cafe they have in Insa-dong. There, you can get green tea flavored ice cream, cake, mochi, &c. They also have other tasty teas.

I ordered a green tea float because I wanted ice cream and a drink. It was good, nice and smooth, and nothing like the powdery green tea that’s offered at places like Starbucks.

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Our next stop was Ssamziegil (쌈지길), a winding building with more than 50 little stores in it. I bought a few beautiful postcards and envelopes from water drop sonata’s booth in the third picture. I can’t wait to mail them out.

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On the top floor of Ssamziegil, there’s a wall where couples leave charms. There’s also a poop themed cafe.

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On our way out, we stopped by the take-out cocktail stand. I was also randomly interviewed by students with a camera. They asked me several questions about various Korean political scandals, which was fine.

Intrigued by the uniquely shaped ice cream cones that many people had, my friend bought one. The verdict is that it looks cool, but tastes like ice sprinkled with sugar.

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As an artistic neighborhood, Insa-dong’s streets are filled with people who paint and do calligraphy. If you visit Seoul as a tourist, it’s a great place to go.

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On a final note, here’s a video of a flash mob in Ssamziegil that was made earlier this year.

Let me know if you want me to do more entries like this. This one wasn’t planned and came from me taking photos I didn’t want to put in a gallery. When I went to Insa-dong, I didn’t think much about composing my shots. Instead, I had fun and “shot from the hip.”

Whimsical

Things I Like 002: Cafes

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If you follow me on foursquare, you know that I love cafes—a lot. And I love visiting them for chatting & studying. For chatting, it’s all about ambiance and what’s open late. Unfortunately, some of the cafes with great ambiance are rather expensive. They even mark up their prices because of the fancy or unique atmosphere inside—their drinks are cheaper if ordered as take out. Some of these places are really pretty: elegant designs in dainty cups served with dainty saucers, settees instead of wooden chairs, and flowers everywhere. Other places are unique. They have menus centered around one item like green tea or a jazz theme or pink hello kitty everything everywhere.

Sadly, most of the cafes with delightful ambiance close at a decent hour. This means that I haven’t been to one in a while. My friends and I are night owls with busy work lives. If a cafe closes before 12AM, it closes a bit too early for us. We can’t get there before 10:30PM (perhaps 11PM) and that just doesn’t give us enough time to get into an amusing and slightly crazy conversation.

When I go somewhere to study, I don’t care so much about ambiance. I just go to what is new, is close, and has the Internet. I like to keep things fresh, though, so I probably won’t go to the same place twice in a row. So much for brand loyalty…

As for what I drink at the cafes—well, it’s ironically not coffee. I don’t like coffee. I like tea ♥. I also like sugar, so on special occasions, I get a sugary tea, something that resembles a frappuccino, or something mildly strange like a sweet potato latte.

This entry was constructed partly at Starbucks as pictured above (iPhone 4s Camera+ app with Diana filter).

Travel

Juxtaposition in Hongdae

I went to Hongdae, home and hangout of many university students. It’s a lively part of Seoul, one of those crowded places where it’s easy to see things together that normally stay separate. Contrasting ideas, funky juxtaposition? That’s Hongdae.

First up—cars and pedestrians move together in the streets. There’s something at least slightly fun about sharing a narrow street with four-wheeled vehicles, motorbikes, and merchandise from overflowing stores.

And second—graffiti is ubiquitous. There’s a park where people hangout, sell artwork, play, etc. It looks dangerous even though it’s not. Well-pierced and smoking, cigarette holding, clad in all-black clothing adults can be seen a few meters away from kindergartens on playground equipment.

As for what’s third—it confuses me. I saw a sign. On the second floor of a building, there’s something cutesy, something that involves cats, probably kittens. It’s probably a cat cafe, one of those places where you get a coffee and play with cats for a small fee. On the third floor, there’s “Fuckfake.” I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t sound cute.


I spent time debating whether or not to write this brief second entry on juxtaposition in Hongdae. Why? Well, without further ado…

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The above, taken at the Trick Eye Museum, is courtesy of a man with a bold sense of humor. But don’t be fooled. The museum is a bit lame. The only thing visitors do is pose in front of 3d pictures. Neither my friend nor I had the guts to go near that painting. We simply were not up to the challenge of pretending to drink pee &c. and thus, all our photos are wonderfully tame boring.

We posed as: angels, Italians, movie stars, shop-a-holics, torturers, King Kong’s food, masterminds of a genius heist, people with their bodies sliced in two, empresses …
Other people pretended to: drink pee, look up the skirts of Degas’ ballerinas, pull the screamer’s pants down …