Funny how turning 40 was no big deal when I was in my favorite place in the whole entire world! And actually, I turned 40 even earlier because of that! I think a few years ago, this birthday milestone may have hit me a lot harder, but in the wise words of Aaliyah (or whoever wrote her songs, hopefully not R Kelly but I’m too L-Z to look it up right now), “age ain’t nuthin’ but a number” y’all.
And on this wonderful July 30th (a Tuesday, in case I ever come back to this blog post in the future and want to know), I sprung out of bed and was SO GIDDY because it was finally the day Chooch and I would be attending the live recording of one of the weekly kpop music shows: SBS MTV The Show.
But…more on that another day!
Fun fact: Chooch had to check out every vending machine we came upon in the subway stations and he got really excited when he thought one of them had a Rubix Cube in it but then it ended up being condoms!? He of course didn’t tell me about this until later so I have no idea how he made that mistake.
First order of business was to have a leisurely stroll around the Cheongyecheon Stream and find something delicious for my birthday lunch (which is never hard to accomplish in Seoul, let me tell you).
I just really liked this colorful building, OK?
Before heading to the entrance of the stream, we continued another block or so to Gwanghwamun Square. Each time we’ve been in this area, there have been protests (peaceful ones) and today was no exception. The protesters are always elderly people, and on this day I believe they were protesting something involving the US and ROC military exercises. Apparently, protests and demonstrations in the plaza itself are illegal, so the protesters are often seen lining up across the street from it.
A statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin looms over the entrance of the square. He led Koreans to victory during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and is just one of many reminders of the hardships this small country has fought its way through.
In the distance, you can see the Blue House, where the President lives (follow the peak of the mountain and you’ll see the Blue House roof). In front of that, but obscured from view in this picture, is the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
At the beginning of the stream is the Cheonggye Plaza and you can’t miss it thanks to the icon spiral of the Spring Sculpture, which is a piece of art that:
“represents new life for the once decrepit stream area. The sculpture was created by Dutch artist Coosje Van Bruggen and Swedish artist Claes Oldenburg.
The colorful ribbons that stream down the side are inspired by the traditional dress of Korean women. The colors of blue and red represent the unity of opposites in nature and human spirit. The shape was inspired by a shell rising up like a pagoda.” – The Seoul Guide
It’s really a cool landmark! “Oh wow, it’s a shell,” Janna said when she was over here watching our endless slideshow but I promise it was more enthusiastic than you might be imagining!
How awesome would it be to work nearby and spend your lunch breaks in the summer with your feet in the stream or taking hour-long walks away from your desk in the spring? I’d be there every day. It’s over 5 miles long!
Henry’s favorite moments in Korea was when we were on opposite sides of water.
There is artwork all along the stream.
At night, there are beautiful lights illuminating the water, night markets, music performances…it’s, as Henry would say, really hopping.
I didn’t realize at first that this mural says Seoul!! Also, Chooch is 100% a natural when it comes to posing for pictures while my basic instinct is to pretend like I’m playing vertical Twister.
Don’t ask Henry to take your senior pictures.
If it hadn’t been 90 degrees that night with literal boughs of precipitation waiting to break above our heads, I would have dragged those two along for the full five mile length of the stream. But…because of the aforementioned weather elements, we decided to go back up to the street and find a place for lunch, since it was nearing noon and it’s always better to find a place to eat before you actually get hungry, that is the key to not killing your travel companions.
Henry realized we were pretty close to Insadong, so that is where we went!
Sadly, the place were I got my artwork last year was no longer in Insadong. :( This little shopping center is super touristy (the whole area is, really) and you will likely see it recommended on any Seoul travel videos or lists you come across, but it really is pretty cool. The shops are cute, the alleys are chockful of traditional restaurants and tea houses, there is great street food (this is where you can find the famous dragon’s beard candy vendors), and all of the store names are in Hangul which adds to the authentic Korean feel. I recommend this area for souvenirs!
Since it was MY BIRTHDAY, we ate at a vegan restaurant tucked away in an alley. This isn’t some trendy hipster vegan joint, but a legit traditional Korean place where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor…
Henry was THRILLED.
“I’m not going to be able to get back up,” he groaned.
It was so humid that day that I had to pull my hair back and Chooch consistently looked like he was just dunked in a pool.
So I was fucking STOKED when I saw that mul nangmyeon was on the menu!!
This is a cold noodle dish which was extremely off-putting the first time I ever had it—I flat out HATED IT. But then I found myself craving it…and now I just love it so much. The broth is ice cold and for this vegan version, made from fruit. In the center, you get a freaking NEST of buckwheat noodles, and usually very thin slices of pears and radish top it off. Then, you add squirts of hot mustard and vinegar to the broth, stir it all up, and slurp it while the spiciness shoots up your nose.
Chooch had a vegan version of samgyeopsal and made a real huge mess and then found out the hard way that he doesn’t like perilla leaves, and Henry had some mushroom noodle thing, but I honestly wasn’t paying attention because I was working so hard on eating my noodles and have you seen me eat noodles? I am a monster. But, I was’t going to ask for scissors!!
I’m pretty sure the waitress hated us because Chooch and I kept cracking up and Henry was doing his dumb “I’m speaking to a Korean” accent every time he had to talk to her, and then there was a table of Indian people and Koreans behind us who were all conversing in English about their cultural differences and Henry was like, “I THINK THEY ARE HAVING A BUSINESS LUNCH” and we were like, “OK you’re cool, Henry” and then Chooch totally crashed into the back of one of them when he got up from the table and I pretty much ran out of there while Henry paid, BYEEEEE.
We went to Osulloc afterward, which is a really famous and popular tea company that started on Jeju Island. We bought some tea for Chooch’s piano teacher (WHO JUST TOLD US SHE IS MOVING TO HAWAII AND CHOOCH AND I ARE SO SAD) and Janna (whose tea was confiscated by TSA at JFK airport so drink up, bitches) and then Chooch and I both got matcha lattes because we’re the best.
Casual walk back to the subway…
…but not without stopping at least one convenience store, holla.
Gotta end this with another picture from our guest house. This view might not be anything special to you, but it is everything to me!
We rested for a bit and changed clothes in preparation for the BIG BIRTHDAY EVENT which is coming up later, maybe tomorrow, who knows I am drowning in blog posts!