Sep 162019
 

We had about half of a day to explore Tokyo on Friday before having to take the train back to Narita Airport, so we decided to stay in the Shibuya area and try to knock out some main tourist-y things and do some shopping. The Disney magic had most definitely worn off, and we were back to being hyper-aware of Henry’s breathing, Chooch’s mouthiness, and my constant (THOUGH ADORABLE) whining.

You would think the serenity of the Meiji Shrine would have helped us BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Actually, everything was fine that morning until I tried to get Chooch to pose for a picture under the Torii Gate (aka the entrance to Meiji Shrine) but he got all Surly Teenage Boy on me and tried to move away so I got SUPER BUTT HURT ABOUT THIS and decided in that moment that I was now going to make sure everyone had a really shitty day because that is the matriarchal leadership type I adopt in my household, bitches!

No, seriously, it was a fine day.

The Meiji Shrine is tucked away right in the city and once you enter, you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away in the forest. It’s so peaceful and tranquil (although I can imagine it’s the exact opposite on busy days!), and even though it was still overwhelmingly humid, it still offered a bit of a reprieve from the blazing sun and sizzling pavement.

Once you pass through the entrance gates, there is still quite a bit of a walk ahead before you reach the shrine’s Main Hall, but it is such a beautiful stroll. Being there made me REALLY CONSCIOUS of the fact that holy shit, we were in Japan.

I loved this display of sake barrels!

Chooch put on his fake nice face when these girls asked him to take their picture. And that’s not litter on the ground – Chooch set his water bottle there while he was playing amateur photog.

Those are barrels of wine behind them.

Before reaching the main shrine building, we passed through a courtyard that offered informational brochures and an AMULET OFFICE (!!!) where omamori of all different varieties can be purchased to bring you good luck, health, etc. Of course Henry wouldn’t let me buy any because he doesn’t believe in anything other than what he was taught IN THE SERVICE and from watching NCIS.

Also in the courtyard was a temizuya, which is a water ablution pavilion found at the entrances of Shinto shrines. The first one we came upon had a small tour group gathered around while their guide illustrated the cleansing ritual. I wanted to do it but for some reason, I got all fucking weird and was convinced that I was going to do it wrong and become haunted by a Japanese spirit for the rest of my life, so I didn’t do it.

From the shrine’s website:

This shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken (their tombs are in Kyoto).
Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise, people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever. So they donated 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas, and they worked voluntarily to create this forest. Thus, thanks to the sincere heart of the people, this shrine was established on November 1, 1920.

100,000 trees! I love that they were donated. It gives it such a heart-warming (not that the heart needed much hep warming up on that day), collaborative vibe.

I also learned that this type of shrine is a “Shinto” shrine. Shinto is Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century. It focuses on ritual practices that establish a connection between present-day Japan and the past, and followers of this religion have a belief in sacred power (called kami) in both animate and inanimate things.

Sooooo much more appealing than Catholicism!

This is the main shrine building. Those trees! I was obsessed with them. They look like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss’s dreams.

Photos and videos inside of it are prohibited so I took this one from a safe distance away. I have this fear of being That American Tourist who overlooks a sign and gets hollered at (lol) by some white-gloved UNESCO cop. I might be a dick on the inside, but I do try to have as much respect as I can humanly muster when I’m being a tourist!

Chooch and I observed the elderly Japanese people around us who came to pay respects to the emperor, and then I saw a sign with instructions so Chooch and I followed along as seriously as possible because there’s nothing worse than a couple of foreigners who appear to be mocking another culture simply because they didn’t read the directions closely enough!

1. You may put some coins into the offertory box.

2. Bow twice.

3. Clap your hands twice.

4. You may make a wish if you like.

5. Bow once again.

We made Henry give us some coins and then we moved on to the bowing and clapping portion, though we didn’t do it as robustly as the men around us, but they seemed like seasoned pros at this and we were just a couple of n00bs, fresh from DisneySea.

Still, I felt a sense of….I dunno, purity? after moving through the steps.

In this area, you could write your prayer on an “ema,” which is a wooden tablet that can be purchased at the AMULET OFFICE.

There was another, less-populated courtyard off to the side of the main shrine building, and this also had one of those water cleansing things. This time, I felt less under a spotlight, so I partook in the water-pouring ritual, but I was still very stressed that I was doing it wrong and then I almost drowned myself on nothing more than a small palmful of water. It got up my nose and everything. I’m a true mess.

I mean, the steps really aren’t outrageous but Henry still had to read them to me over and over.

“Rinse your left hand…your left hand. LEFT. Your LEFT HAND. THAT ONE,” is basically how that went.

And then:

2. Rinse your right hand.

3. Pour water into your left hand.

4. Rinse your mouth.

5. Rinse your left hand again.

6. Rinse the dipper (allow the remaining water to run down the handle of the dipper).

Then Henry did it too and of course this was a majorly bonding moment for Chooch and me because we were born to scrutinize Henry’s every move.

“I DIDN’T DO IT WRONG,” is what he was saying here after Chooch and I launched into our celestial chorus of “YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING.”

After an hour lost inside this forest in the middle of Tokyo, we started to make our way out but not before going into the GIFT SHOP so I could, god forbid, buy a magnet. We also bought some tins of traditional-y candy which Henry insisted on keeping in his man-purse so we had to continuously ask him for one, which was really frustrating and I had forgotten about that until just now so now I’m annoyed.

On that note, more Japan memories to come!

Sep 152019
 

Before I close the chapter on DisneySea, I just want to do a quick (lol yeah sure—nothing I do on here is quick) recap of some of the rides and the food we had!

I think we all agreed, hands down, that our favorite ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth. As a dark ride connoisseur and coaster enthusiast, I liked that this was a bit of an amalgamation of both.

As with every Disney park, the theming in the line was excelsior, so that was no big surprise. This was the first ride we rode that day so the standby line wasn’t outrageous yet.

I WAS SO EXCITED TO GO THROUGH THOSE DOORS!

My only beef with this ride was that it wasn’t long enough. And that’s just me being hard-pressed to find a complaint because, you know, balance or whatever!

Tower of Terror in Tokyo has a different storyline than the others, not that it matters too much because it’s all in Japanese! But we chose this Fast Pass over Toy Story Mania for that reason.

It’s funny, because I typically dislike drop towers and avoid them in every park, but I love Tower of Terror so much! And this one was just so much fun, mostly because we didn’t know what was going on!

It also pleased me that we were put in row 6 6 6, lol.

I love that Henry is blank while Chooch and I have the same squinty WTF expression. Also, I’m not used to being able to take pictures of the picture! Every other park is a BIG NO when it comes to that. But here, everyone just does it. It’s been a minute since I was at Disney World so I can’t remember if it’s like that there, too!?

I think 20,000 Leagues was the longest line we stood in (an hour? We rode it again later and the line was only about 20 minutes then!) but it was worth it and again, the crowds there were very mild and inoffensive so it never felt like being in prison, like how we often feel when we’re stuck in line for the Exterminator at Kennywood, having no choice but to inhale the farts of strangers and hear amplified Yinzer-speak in surround sound since that damn queue is indoors.

Henry smiled A LOT that day, and he really loved 20,000 Leagues. He was so excited when we got off the ride the first time because he wanted to know if Chooch and I spotted some shadow of a thing that was pushing our car through the water and we were like, “No, you lame-o” and acted like we didn’t care but then we had a secret conference outside of Henry’s super-limited range of hearing and decided we would have to ride it again to look for that.

Also, we didn’t know that we had a control in front of our seats that controlled a spotlight, but of course dumb Henry knew, so now we definitely had to ride it again.

Anyway, it was fun being at a park where Henry actually rode things! Usually he just “sits on a bench” and waits for us but what he really does is stocks up on soft pretzels without us so he doesn’t have to share. Rude ass.

I was obsessed with riding these boat-things all day! Apparently, it utilizes the same track design as Pooh’s Hunny Hut, if that matters to you.

Chooch and I rode it later in the evening, after getting in all of the big rides, and you have to choose between two different tracks—such pressure! I was mad because the one that Chooch chose for us didn’t seem like the best one, and then I was mad again because dumb Henry took a picture of us using his idiot phone which takes shitty photos.

I loved this ride because the ride attendant told me he liked my Oswald ears AND HE WAS REALLY CUTE TOO.

Everyone who works at DisneySea is just a brand new level of Happy, but you really have to expect that much from a Disney park. That’s one of things I appreciate about this brand is that, even if you’re not a big Disney aficionado like me (I haven’t cared about Disney movies/cartoons since the early 90s), the experience you get at the parks is so high-quality that the fact that you had to dip into the kid’s college fund to get there doesn’t even matter.

J/K, we didn’t dip into Chooch’s college fund.

He doesn’t even have a college fund.

HAHAHAHAugh.

The Aladdin area of the park was so beautiful, and Chooch and I definitely needed to ride the flying carpets.

If this was Kennywood, that would just be cement with weeds sprouting through the cracks, not a gorgeous fountain. (Sorry, Kennywood, but you know it’s true! You’re beautiful in other ways, but theming is not your forte.)

Again with Henry’s lame-ass phone.

Chooch and I rode this little kid Flounder coaster because we gotta get that coaster cred no matter what.

That brake run was rough, haha.

We also rode this adorable little ride but dumb Henry was too bust melting against a wall to take our picture like a good parent.

The carousel was in the Aladdin area too and it was delightful!

God only knows what I was jawing off about here, but it was wonderful to be in the shade!

Another family portrait on a carousel. We need an intervention.

Did you know that up until a few years ago, I had a huge fear of carousels because I have gotten stuck on the horses before? And by “gotten stuck” I mean that I am afraid of even the tiniest heights and have been actually too paralyzed by fear to attempt to slide off the damn thing and then Henry has to assist. But lately, I have been doing much better and I think that I almost cured.

I wanted to ride Tower of Terror again in the evening but those dumb asses were like 45 MINUTES STANDBY OMG THAT’S SO LONG because they’re spoiled.

We also rode some other kiddy rides, and we had Fast Passes for Indiana Jones and also Raging Spirits, which was the only ride that was a bit underwhelming for me. There were English-speaking people in line behind us and the one girl was freaking out because she had never ridden a roller coaster that went upside down and she was probably in her early 20s and for some reason this really lodged itself into my hippocampus and I still think about it occasionally.

It was OK! Not my favorite ride there, but still worth the ride.

Aside from Sinbad (it was closed for maintenance), we managed to ride all the main attractions on my list without wasting our lives in overwhelming queues or running around like maniacs, and I was extremely surprised. In my head, I had this day playing out to be full of stress, pushy people, more interfamilial hostility than Trump’s twitter feed, and hemorrhaging money.

But it was so peaceful and our walking-speed was more at a casual stroll after we nabbed that first Fast Pass. In fact, usually when we’re at an amusement park, we’re in such a hurry to get all the big rides in that we barely break to eat. But at DisneySea, not only did we have spare time, but the food was CHEAP! Now is the time in this blog post where we have a FOOD RECAP.

This adorable Donald Duck lifesaver was a savory bun stuffed with shrimp, and not just like, a measly wad of mushy shrimp paste, but this was loaded with hearty, meaty, shrimp.

These Toy Story mochi are pretty much the signature Tokyo Disney snack. Watch any YouTube video about this park and I guarantee they will make an appearance, and if they don’t, then that vlogger did it wrong.

You get three per order, one each of strawberry-filled, chocolate-filled, and vanilla custard-filled. They were so good and now I wish I had gone back for seconds because Henry and I shared an order while Chooch got his own. I have major regerts about that. I chose poorly. Stupid diet-brain.

However, I didn’t share my lunch with Henry! (Wait, shit, yes I did—my meal came with a side of potatoes and sausages and I gave him my sausages.)

We chose a place in the Arabian Coast port of call (which I have been consistently referring to as the Aladdin area) and I got this fucking fantastic udon lunch special. Anyway, I couldn’t believe how cheap it was for all three of us to eat there. I want to say it was about $30 as opposed to King’s Island where, even with one of us having a meal plan, it was like $60. Yikes.

Look at this gorgeous bowl! It was so filling and satisfying. Again, maybe DisneySea had the air poisoned with Positivity Pollution, but shit—at every turn, I felt like a kid being let out of the orphanage for the first time. I just kept saying, “This place is so great” over and over, while flowers sprouted out of all of my orifices.

Henry was like, “I’m going to buy this mango ice cream concoction for no reason other than I’m at Disney” and then Chooch was like, “I’ll take that, thanks.”

 

Shout out to the different popcorn vendors, happily churning out their wonderful smelling treats in every port of call! Each vendor had a different flavor (Chooch is on a major curry kick, so that’s the flavor we got). The caramel one, while not being the most exotic flavor, was definitely the most appealing one to me because that scent literally elevated the atmosphere in the entire area around it. I think it may have even borrowed one of those flying carpets to carry its sweet, buttery smell even further, because I kept catching whiffs of it all over the park. It was mesmerizing.

The curry flavor was great too! Really, the only one I wasn’t drawn to was the chocolate-covered variety because it was so hot that day and I couldn’t imagine eating melty popcorn with my hands. No.

And last but not least, we ate dinner at Zambini because Chooch saw it earlier in the day and totally latched on to it. We had pizza, and I demanded that we get both desserts on the menu, because each one came with a different limited edition souvenir thing, so now we have a little Pirate Summer plate and coffee cup. I’m pleased with this.

One more thing before I wrap this up: we went into pretty much every gift shop to search for Bambi shit for Chooch, and in the very last one we went inside, we finally found a Bambi shirt, and not only was it a nice design, it was only $20!! FOR A FUCKING DISNEY SHIRT.

I probably come across as some tight-wad coupon cutter, and I swear I’m not—I’m just accustomed to amusement park inflation and honestly we were prepared to really have to spend a lot of hard-earned Yen at DisneySea. Honestly, this day couldn’t have been any better! I am so glad that I campaigned so hard to have this added to my birthday vacation itinerary, because if you have to turn 40, you might as well soften the blow any way you can. And this definitely softened that blow. Disney is one of the few places on Earth where you can be a Forever Child!

Sep 142019
 

Friends, foes, family, foresters: I am here to tell you that I have nothing bad to say about DisneySea. Honestly. It was the one day from our vacation where we didn’t fight ONE SINGLE TIME. The park opened, we walked in, and it was like the air was being pumped with happy gas because even though it was 100 degrees, we genuinely liked each other that day.

We’re not Disney people but this park had a huge impact on us! And this might sound like a cop-out, but there is really no way I can illustrate just how magical this place is, aside from sharing photos. So let’s peruse my collection together, shall we?

DisneySea is built next to the Tokyo Bay and has seven themed “ports of call” areas. I’ve heard that this park is billed as the Disney for adults, and even though there is a huge (and BEAUTIFUL) indoor kids area, I can definitely see how this is true. There is one area that made me feel like I was in Cape May and I loved it which is hilarious because when I was a kid, we always took a day trip to Cape May during our Wildwood family vacations, and I was always so miserable about that. I hated Cape May as a kid! All my grandma wanted to do was shop and all I could think about was how I missing out on prime time riding rides on the boardwalk. (Morey’s Piers ftw.)

I mentioned in my last Tokyo post that DisneySea doesn’t use an app for Fast Pass, so when the gates opened, we had to walk-run (there are friendly Disney employees everywhere reminding you politely not to run and I already knew this from watching videos so I speed-walked like a good girl because maybe you don’t know this about me BUT I HATE BEING YELLED AT even if it’s someone just kindly reminding me not to do something I’m doing, I will take this and escalate it in my head and get totally butt-hurt and then I will keep replaying the moment until I’m convinced that I was yelled at.

I’m insane and my issues are plentiful.

Anyway, our plan was to pass up Toy Story because it’s identical to the one in the US, grab a Tower of Terror fast pass, and then speedwalk to Journey to the Center of the Earth for stand-by. This plan worked wonderfully!

Mysterious Island was amazing!! The theming blew us all away.

I was prepared for Journey’s line to be outrageous but stand-by was about 30-45 minutes! That ride was goddamn amazing but my favorite part was when Henry ripped his shorts when he was getting into the car!

(Unfortunetely, his rip wasn’t as disastrous as it could have been, and even though it was large, it was still unnoticeable. Ugh.)

I will have a separate post to talk about the rides and food, so let’s just keep looking at the glorious scenery, shall we?

Seriously, would you look at this area? I think we just ooh’d and ahh’d over everything for the first 8 hours of the day.

 

I’m not sure where all the people went that we saw when the park opened, because it didn’t seem very crowded that day. Don’t get me wrong, some of the bigger rides had really long standby wait times as the day went on (Toy Story and the brand new Soaring were basically big no’s if you didn’t have a fast pass, and we didn’t want a fast pass for any of them), but we weren’t fighting our way through hoards of people on the paths or in the restaurants. It was actually pretty weird.

And whenever we did have to stand in line, it was pleasant because people in Japan are polite and orderly. It really was like being in an Utopian amusement park.

Even though we were able to ride all the rides we wanted to, this park could still easily be a 2-day park, because there is so much to see and eat. The facades were so detailed and the shops in each port of call had different merch. Also, we didn’t see any of the shows because that’s not important to us, but if we had been there for a second day, I definitely would have penciled that in because this park inspired me to care about these things!

…and then we found out where all the people were, lol. There’s a big pirate show that happens several times in the main entrance area and people seemed to just loiter there all day.  Also, it was August 1st when we were there, and that was the day when the new theme and merch came out, so I think the enthusiasts were there just for that. We walked past a lot of people who were hanging out in that area with like 8 bags of merch!

Meanwhile, all I cared about was getting my ears (the process of choosing a pair is painstaking but I went with Oswald and Chooch got Dumbo ears and then instantly had reGERTS because it was, again, 100 degrees that day and now he was essentially wearing a terry-cloth headband, good job, dingus.

Venice Vibes, Very.

Basically just an excuse to sit down.

I wanted to jump into this water so badly that day. Did I mention it was 100 degrees?

Did I mention we were also in Japan?

You think you know humidity in America, but you don’t.

LOOK AT THIS CHILDREN’S AREA!!! It was inside Ariel’s Castle and majorly air-conditioned. We definitely took our good ol’ time strolling through this piece.

And the gift shop was inside a whale!

Again, I’m not a Disneyphile but shit, I wanted to buy everything I saw.

Pompously phallic.

In all serious though, I couldn’t stop ogling the majesty of this castle. The detail was sickening!

Halfway to heatstroke.

If you looked at those tiny tiles close up, you’d find little Mickey ears, Flounders, and other assorted hidden Disney sundry.

I can’t imagine standing before this and not being totally enchanted.

One of our many “should we jump” contemplations. Also, note that Chooch is wearing his Pie Jesus friendship bracelet!

Some areas of DisneySea are under construction and from what I understand, it’s in preparation for next summer’s Olympics. Getting a bit of a face lift, I guess! Some of the coaster enthusiasts I follow on YouTube were super annoyed about this when they visited a week before us, but it didn’t take very much away from our visit. If Journey to the Center of the Earth had been outright closed, then my tune would be very different!

Henry, reapplying sunscreen.

LOOK AT THIS VIEW! Also, that water was making me hallucinate. Or was it the sun. I don’t know, but I was feeling delirious.

(Don’t worry! We stayed hydrated all day and guess what? It was easy to do so because food and beverage prices were CHEAP there! I was shocked. I mostly kept refilling an empty bottle at various water fountains, but I did get tempted several times to partake in flavored drinks because, Tokyo. There was some fizzy grapefruit sports drink that was SO REFRESHING.)

You know a park is legit when even your kid keeps stopping to take in the views. I’m a very GO-GO-GO type of person at amusement parks, but this place made me want to slow down and relax.

My kimono-thing was protecting my skin big-time, yo.

Obsessed with this tree.

The theme for August was Pirates Summer and we were there for the first day of it, so that was pretty cool! I purposely ordered a dessert at one of the restaurants just so I could get a collectible plate, so I guess I’m a Disney person now.

This fountain is iconic because it’s the first thing you see when you walk through the entrance. Also, we tried to get Henry to buy a pair of ears but he is too much of a lamer, I guess. Now no one will believe that he actually had a good time!

Some Instagram models were doing an amateur photoshoot here so then we had to do one too.

Did I ever tell you about how Chooch despises Chip and Dale because they’re so much more popular than Bambi when it comes to Disney merch and sometimes, from afar, he will think he sees something Bambi-themed only to get closer and see that it’s Chip and Dale. So when he saw this Chip, or Dale?, at DisneySea, he had a moment of rage. I wanted him to get in line for a picture but he was like Chip (or Dale?) can go fuck himself.

(Personally, I love Chip & Dale. I had one of their videos in the 80s and it was the kind that came in the giant padded case. I watched it all the time!)

The Aladdin area was so beautiful, I could have cried.

But Mermaid’s Lagoon had my heart. Those under-the-sea aesthetics really snatched me, you guys.

I wanted Chooch to make friends with all these children but he was like, “I just want to touch the water, not make power moves.”

I’m such a Disney fraud that I didn’t even know who Duffy was until I started researching this park.

SHIT YOU GUYS. JUST OMG THESE LOOKS. If DisneySea was a kpop group, then Mermaid’s Lagoon would be the visuals.

Although the Arabian area wasn’t exactly horse face, either.

DisneySea at night is a big fat mood. My heart was actually fluttering.

We stayed until the park closed and yes, we were fucking BEAT but it was worth every second we were crucified by the sun.

I’ll have one more Disney post to recap some of the rides and foods, so look forward to that, or don’t!

****

Once we were off Disney-soil, Chooch and Henry were free to argue over directions and fare machines again, so that was fun.

Sep 112019
 

Chooch, on the balcony of our guest house, in his too-big house slippers.

On Thursday morning, the first day of August, we woke up disgustingly early (5:00am) to get a head start for DisneySea. This was the ONE THING in Japan I was fully educated on. I read blogs, websites, watched YouTube reviews and vlogs until I was navigating this place in my dreams.

This was also why I was so irritable the night before though — STRESS. Going to any Disney Park can be nerve wracking because you want to be able to do all the things and have a good time without worrying about huge crowds but hello, we picked the fucking summer to do this. I can’t help it that I’m a summer birthday baby!

DisneySea still uses the old Fast Pass system, where you have to go to each ride and scan your ticket in the Fast Pass machine and hope for the best. I was STRESSED ABOUT THIS! But even more stressed about the act of actually getting to the park, which involved two transfers and theoretically would take about 45 minutes. (According to Google.)

View from the balcony. I was obsessed with the neighborhood we were staying in and sad that we didn’t have more time.

The streets were pretty quiet when we left the Green Hotel to start our Disney Journey. We stopped at the closest convenience store on the way to the subway station to grab some breakfast to take with us. Some of the tips I read said to get to the park as early as possible, up to 2 hours because the gates open, and eat your breakfast in line with everyone else. I was already accustomed to eating samgak kimbap in Korea so I grabbed the Japanese equivalent  to this – what most of the world is more familiar with: onigiri. I didn’t even pay attention to what Henry and Chooch got because it was fucking way too early in the morning and I was a miserable cry baby about that, never mind that this was my idea!

I have to give Chooch credit – he is a real take-charge kind of guy. Me? I’m more of a stand-off-to-the-side-and-let-everyone-else-do-it kind of gal. Especially when it comes to directional things.

I kept yammering on social media about how this was the only day that we had zero fights but I forgot about the early-morning subway arguments between Henry and Chooch. These two just literally cannot ever be on the same page (of the map) and then Chooch supposedly found some better way to go and Henry was like NO THAT’S WRONG and Chooch was like YOU NEVER LISTEN TO  ME and then Henry was like FINE WE WILL DO IT YOUR WAY and I was like IF YOU TWO FUCK THIS UP FOR ME, YOU BETTER RUN RUN RUN.

Basically, we took the subway from Ueno to Somewhere??? Station, saw this display of Kewpie Dolls, walked to WHATEVERVILLE STATION, per Chooch’s directions, couldn’t find it, walked around in tiny circles while looking up at the sky, saw a sign that said the name of the station we were looking for but couldn’t find the entrance, started overturning rocks to see if the entrance was under there, had a fight, drew a station entrance with chalk because maybe magic was on our side, said YES!! when an older Japanese gentleman paused and asked, “Disney?” and then pointed to the half-hidden staircase that we never would have found without his help.

Thank god for Chooch’s Mickey Mouse shirt.

(Honestly, we couldn’t believe how hard it was to find this opening!! I’m not sure if this ended up being the way Chooch suggested, or Henry’s original plan, but whoever decided this was the way to go surely fucked up.)

From that point on, it was OK. We got tickets for the train to Maihama Station and when there was a split second where we weren’t sure which way to go to find the platform, a group of excited girls in matching clothes blew past us, so we just followed them.

The train ride to Maihama was pretty quick, maybe about 15-20 minutes, and as soon as we arrived, that’s when the real mayhem began because that station was FLOODED with Disney-goers. DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland are right next to each other, so this is the main station that park visitors need to get to in order to take the Disney shuttle to either park.

I was on pins and needles at this point! The anticipation! Wondering how crowded it was going to be! And if we would fight with each other all day! If this would end up being a big let down and a wasted day!

SO MANY UNKNOWNS! Traveling is such a gamble. Especially when you throw something like this into the mix.

The shuttle ops are on point at Disney, so we didn’t have to wait very long for the next one to arrive.

Henry originally got a seat, but then gave it up to an older woman who bowed profusely at him and I wanted to tell her not to waste her bows on that dummy but, you know, they’re her bows to give, I guess.

So then Henry had to stand and hold onto the Mickey Ears for the whole whopping 5 minutes we were on the shuttle.

It was 7am by the time we made it to the entrance and there were already dozens of lines snaking out from the front of the gates. We secured a spot and got as comfortable as we could under the scalp-melting 95 degree sun, and then Chooch OF COURSE got sunscreen in his eyes and we looked like we were That American Family whose kid even cries at Disney because he’s a spoiled American, and then he kept using Henry’s shirt to wipe his eyes and Henry was like, “EXCUSE ME DON’T GET MY GENERIC MIDDLE AGED MAN POLO SHIRT DIRTY WITH YOUR SUNSCREENED TEARS, THANK YOU” and I was just staring at the time on my phone wondering how we were going to survive for two hours without causing a scene, but THEN GUESS WHAT the park actually opened at 8am, not 9am like I thought, so we only had to stand in that (actually pretty calm and orderly) crowd for an hour!

THIS IS THE FIRST THING YOU SEE WHEN YOU ENTER THE PARK! ICONIC!! I already forgot about how difficult it was to get out of bed at 5am, and the direction drama at the first subway station, and the literal scavenger hunt for the train station entrance. Because we were in DisneySea! But that tranquil moment would only last a second because our mad dash for Fast Passes started NOW and I had to focus. THERE WAS NO TIME FOR DAWDLING!!

Sep 082019
 

Landing in Japan was SURREAL. I still couldn’t believe that we managed to make this leg of the trip work out and I was like, you know, feeling so hashtag blessed. I was also secondhand stoked for Chooch because Japan is his Korea, so I was happy that we were able to get him there. Hopefully he’ll remember this when it’s time to for the “should we put mom in a home” talk.

CHOOCH, YOUR MOTHER GAVE YOU THE BEST TRAVEL MEMORIES OF YOUR CHILDHOOD. NEVER FORGET.

Plus, he was excited because when we landed, we had to exit the plane onto the tarmac, and he’s “always wanted to do that” apparently?

The bathroom is Narita Airport was majestic. LOOK AT IT! I TOOK THIS PICTURE SO YOU COULD SEE!!

Full disclosure: we definitely don’t know much about Japan so we were kind of unprepared. Except that we at least already had a wad of Yen, at least. And in Korea, at least I can read it and know how to say basic things. Plus, Henry and Chooch have that subway system completely figured out.

(Not me. I just rely on them because I’m too busy looking at things and smiling.)

Having already been in Korea twice kind of killed the VENDING MACHINE EXCITEMENT for us. Now we’re just spoiled and come to expect that kind of convenience. *hair flip emoji*

Henry eventually figured out how to purchase tickets for the Skyliner Train that took us to Tokyo. I was so excited to get out of the airport and actually see some things! It was already about 6:30pm so we didn’t have much time for too many touristy things.

Henry immediately started watching his dumb Netflix shows (probably a Western or something) before the train even pulled out, so Chooch and I were cracking up.

I didn’t do anything on the train, not even write in my vacation journal, because I was too busy looking out the window and taking it all in. I get that we were in a completely different country from Korea, but I was still low-key stunned at just HOW DIFFERENT it was, even just looking at the scenery out of the train window! If I had to summarize it a succinct as possible, I’d have to say that Japan just seemed more green.

Our hotel/guest house was in Ueno, and that was one of the stops on the Skyliner train. Henry probably planned it that way, but maybe I’m giving him too much credit. Of course though since we were in a new country, Henry fucked up the directions and took us out the wrong station exit and we stood around sweating and arguing until he sorted his shit out, GOD HENRY.

*insert Henry & the School Girls joke here*

I assumed that sign meant that Chooch was supposed to hold my hand, but he WOULD NOT.

We found our hotel pretty easily once Henry got his directions righted, and I was excited because we had to keep our shoes in a locker! Also, most of my pictures are blurry from this night because it WAS SO FUCKING HUMID that the lens on my phone was literally wet and probably melting too.

The slippers they gave us were way too big for me and I had the hardest time walking up the steps in them. I think they girl at the front desk was totally annoyed with us but she kept smiling anyway because people in Tokyo are SO FRIENDLY. That was my second impression, after “wow, Japan is green.” It was kind of shocking because in Korea, it’s not that people are cold per se, but most that we encounter aren’t overly friendly, especially to foreigners, unless you’re in a legit tourist area, like Lotte World or one of the palaces, etc.

But here, it was like next level hospitality.

I didn’t take a picture of our room but it WAS A SHOEBOX. We walked in and one bed was RIGHTTHERE, and then a second bed was elevated a bit on a platform-like loft. Then there were two shelves on the wall with a TV, kettle, towels, and the smallest bathroom I’ve ever used in my whole life. At first we were like ARE YOU KIDDING but it’s amazing how quickly you acclimate when you’re fucking exhausted and also remember that you’re really only going to be using that room to sleep and shower anyway….so then it just felt cozy. Haha. And also kind of hysterical because yes, put the dysfunctional American family into the smallest room possible.

We were arguing about something, who knows what at that point, when I opened the window and realized that there was a shared balcony out there. So I went out to the hallway to access it and discovered a young European girl sitting out there, smoking. I was so embarrassed knowing that we had given her some belligerent noise pollution, but then she was concerned that her smoking was bothering us and I was like, “Look, your cigarettes are no worse than our loud mouths” except that IT CAUSES CANCER BUT WHATEVER.

She was nice enough.

I took this picture from outside the guest house. Chooch and I were cracking up because when we got outside to go exploring, I asked Henry if he had the wifi thingie and he was like SHIT so he had to go back inside, take his shoes off, and run up to the third floor. I couldn’t imagine why it was taking him so long but it turned out that he actually came back down when we weren’t paying attention, put his shoes back on, and then realized that he forgot his wallet in the room, so he had to take his shoes off again and go back up.

What a n00b.

But apparently he bonded with the European girl’s dad because he had to keep going back up to the room too BUT WERE THEY WERE ACTUALLY HAVING A SECRET RENDEZVOUS?

This was us waiting outside for Henry and instantly losing 3 pounds from sweating while doing absolutely nothing more than standing still. Asian humidity is on another level, you guys. Moist moist moist.

Green Hotel was just a 5-minute walk from the nearest subway station. Henry took us to the wrong side of the platform and didn’t realize it until after we bought our tickets but luckily the nice Subway fare attendant cut us some slack for being Dumb Americans, let us leave, and then let his buddy on the other side know what the deal was so we didn’t have to pay for new tickets.

What a nice freaking guy!

My first impression of the subway was that it’s not as good as Seoul, but better than anything I’ve experienced in America. It’s funny because in Korea, as soon as you step on the subway, PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU. Eventually they look away, but there’s definitely that foreigner curiosity there. In Tokyo, no one gave us a second glance so that aspect of it felt a bit more comfortable. But physically, the Seoul subway is definitely more comfortable. Their stations are better, too. (To be fair, we didn’t get to experience very many different stations in Tokyo though!)

Our half-assed agenda was to go to uber-popular Shibuya so Chooch could see the statue of the dog that waited for his owner to come back for him for like 7 years, not knowing that he had died. Wow. How uplifting!!

Is it weird that Shibuya Crossing seemed not as insane in real life?! I kept asking Henry, “Are you sure this is really it? It seems a lot smaller.” I mean, we crossed the street with everyone else and it wasn’t overwhelming like I was expecting it to be, but it was cool to do it!

I am soooo not an expert at Japanese stuff so we just walked around, checked out some shops, and took it all in with no itinerary or agenda. I didn’t even know where to start but all I know is that I wanted to buy everything I saw, especially all the cute makeup stuff! Even the Pokemon makeup, and I don’t even like Pokemon.

We were there specifically to go to Disney Sea the next day, so any free time we had was limited and therefore, I didn’t really spend much time researching what to do because I didn’t want to be stressed out about trying to fit everything in. So I was happy to just stroll about and look at things…

…until we started getting hungry. And by then it was after 10pm and I didn’t want to be out super late because we had to get up early the next day. So we decided to just head back to Ueno and grab something quick to eat near the hotel before we spent all night arguing over food.

We could have just eaten pizza at Mean’s, which I didn’t even notice until just now when I glanced at that picture, haha. None of us really wanted to sit down for a full meal at 10pm so we decided to head back to Ueno.

Art outside of Shibuya Station – I was obsessed.

These posters were all over the subway station. A few weeks after we came home from vacation, Chooch asked, “Did you see that picture of the guy in Toyko that looked like a Japanese Pee Wee Herman….” and I said, “OH YOU MEAN THIS GUY” and shoved my phone in his face. “Of course you have a picture of it,” he sighed, but I knew he was secretly happy.

Chooch and Henry argued at the fare machine, because this is tradition now, and then we managed to make it back to Ueno without killing each other. We stopped at Family Mart back in Ueno, which became a running joke since we were like ARE WE EVEN A FAMILY?!?! and grabbed some things to eat for dinner, which is difficult when you want to eat all the things!

We brought back an array of noodles and rice and cool drinks and pizza back to the room and stuffed our faces.

In my vacation journal that night, I wrote this:

“10:58PM: Ugh Japan is awful because of Henry. He is so annoying! We’re eating convenience store food and he said, “Here, have some pizza!” in this phony, kind voice so I said, “You sound like a church person” and Chooch started laughing into his ramen so Henry yelled at him and said, “THERE’S OTHER PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT THAT” and I said, “Yeah. ‘Other people.’ There’s a line outside the door.”

But then we all started cracking up and went to bed. Aside from the hunger games we went through earlier that night, it was a great day but we all definitely needed the sleep. It was a long day of traveling (airports are soooo stressful) and we had to get up super earlier the next day to start our Disney odyssey!

Sep 062019
 

I was so giddy when I woke up on Wednesday 7/31/19, because it was the day we were going to be flying to Tokyo! Look at Henry’s face! He’s clearly very excited and giddy about Travel Day, too.  I blogged a little about the events of that morning already when I was on the train to Incheon Airport so let’s just jump right on in!

Because Korea and Japan are neighbors, there were a ton of flights to choose from, but we found the best deal through Jeju Air. Henry kept sitting on booking the flight all the way up until 2 weeks before we left, so I was really starting to think that this leg of our trip wasn’t going to happen.

So, the main reason why I wanted to cram this into our itinerary was because of Disney Sea. I have been obsessed with the idea of visiting this park for some time now and spent the last year devouring every website and YouTube video I could find on it so I could be as prepared as possible. And to be honest, I could tell that Henry too was somewhat intrigued by this park so I just kept harping on him over and over until he finally cried uncle and snagged a hotel. But then I had to keep harping for three more months until he sealed with  the deal with a flight and Disney Sea tickets.

(Oh you better believe I kept playing the Birthday Card for this!)

I was oddly excited that we were finally going to be able to experience Terminal One of Incheon Airport. Because we have used Korean Air the two times we’ve flown to Korea, we have only been to Terminal Two, which is actually super new–it was only three months old the first time we flew in. But Terminal One is supposed to be just as impressive, and it didn’t disappoint. Incheon is so sleek, clean, sparkling, and exciting. And it has robots that will show you how to get to places within the airport and I don’t just mean they show you a map, but they will literally TAKE YOU TO WHERE YOU NEED TO BE.

They’re really cute.

We arrived at the airport around 1:30 I think, and our flight was supposed to leave at 3:30, so we had a little bit of time to explore…

Isn’t this so peaceful?!

Baby Shark was playing on this gigantic screen at one point and Chooch was pissed because I didn’t get my phone ready fast enough to record it so he could send it to Blake and Calvin.

SO SORRY.

Thank god he found photo ops later on…him and all the children.

So damn dumb.

The bathrooms in the Incheon airport are really clean and pretty, probably because they have signs discouraging travelers from doing stupid things like stepping on the toilets.

Chooch and I ate lunch at A Twosome Place, which was monumental because we always commented on them every time we saw one last time we were in Seoul, because what an exclusive name. Anyway, Henry made a big deal of not ordering anything to eat there because THAT WAS NOT WHAT HE WANTED and I swear he does this shit to set himself up for later complaining when it’s OMG SO LATE and he HASN’T EATEN YET. He’s the fucking worst.

This wasn’t one of those places that give you the buzzer that goes off when your food is ready – A Twosome Place at the airport does it the old school way BY CALLING OFF YOUR NUMBER ON THE RECEIPT so I sat there and internalized my panic because I am so fucking slow with Korean numbers but then Chooch was like, “Fuck waiting for our number to be called, I’m just going to lowkey troll the counter until they tell me when it’s ready.” The girls working there giggled at him and one of them said, “Next one!” so I blew out the breath that I hadn’t realized I was holding and quit stressing over which number system they were going to use and if I would be able to understand BECAUSE THE NUMBERS WERE THREE DIGITS.

Learning Korean is a struggle, you guys. A real fucking struggle.

It was getting closer to boarding time so we started to walk toward the gate when Henry decided he wanted to find a store to get snacks for the plane (I mean, he could have just asked the robot) and Chooch and I didn’t go with him because we ended up chasing an unknown celebrity instead!

“Hurry! We’re missing Fun Time” Chooch announced, and pointed ahead where a small group of people had gathered around some man in sunglasses. Chooch always spots these things first! If his current career path doesn’t pan out, he could probably get a job with TMZ.

Henry said, “It looks like Chanyeol,” right before he walked off in search of processed foods, except that he pronounced it like “Channel” and Chooch and I died of embarrassment. Anyway, it wasn’t Chanyeol because he’s from EXO and there would have been an entire security throng around him (though I did find out later that he was at the airport that day too!).

I immediately sent this to my pal Veronica because she is way more in the know than I am about Korean celebrities, but even she was stumped. I was searching the Incheon hashtag on Instagram and everything, to no avail. Finally, weeks later, Chooch posted it on some Asian entertainment reddit group and someone came through with the answer nearly at the same time my friend Jiyong texted me with his name too: Hwang Chiyeul!

I’m not very familiar with him, but he’s a singer and TV personality. We also saw him in ads the entire time we were in Korea!

Of course I’m obsessed with him now.

Meanwhile, it was nearly  time to board so we went to the gate but fucking Henry wasn’t there yet and time was ticking and people were boarding and we were getting more and more strung out and angry. Basically everything that Henry does makes us angry. And we couldn’t text the fucker because he had the wifi thingie. Then we had this great, short-lived dream of leaving without him until we realized that he had Chooch’s boarding pass and passport, lol.

Anyway, we eventually found the dumbass calmly meandering toward the gate with his bag of snacks in his meat-hand AND A LITERAL CAKE IN HIS MOUTH like he was headed to a big weeping willow in sleepy Savannah for a picnic and a nap, and were the last people to board, so that was cool.

Hopefully someday I will be able to take Jeju Air to Jeju Island!

And then, in around 2 and a half hours, we landed at Narita Airport, which was pretty surreal. BUT THAT’S A STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY. Probably tomorrow.

Sep 052019
 

After a sweaty day dripping perspiration around the streets of Insadong, we came back, freshened up, did a wardrobe change, and then set off for Digital Media City where we (just Chooch and me, Henry is lame) would be attending a live taping of a Kpop show! First, we had to have our traditional crack-up in the elevator though – we always played the “get on the elevator and leave Henry” game so that he would have to wait for another elevator and be all grumbly by the time he joined us outside.

It never got old!

(Well, it may have for Henry.)

Waiting outside for Henry — I hate when Chooch makes this face!!

Digital Media City is only one stop away from where we were staying in Hongdae, but we still left around 3:45 to ensure that we arrived at the SBS Prism building by 4:30, which was the designated check-in time.

A few months ago, we watched a video about this area of Seoul, and it’s literally built on top of a gigantic garbage dump that had, at one point, grown so large that it was 34x the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the fuck….In 1996, Seoul launched stabilization projects to fix this and prevent further environmental contamination, and now this area is home to many broadcasting headquarters, housing, and beautiful parks!

The Prism building had a bunch of people waiting outside, but it was all of the locals who line up in hopes of getting to attend the shows.

So, each network has their own weekly Kpop shows, where the artists who are currently promoting new songs come out, perform their comeback or debut song, and then usually at the end, there is a voting system (they go by digital streams, album sales, online popularity voting…I’m 100% sure it’s rigged, but it’s still fun right?!), a winner is announced, no one is surprised, confetti pops off, the trophy is passed around by the winning group members and all of the other artists on stage bow respectfully to each other. Then the winning group does an impromptu, informal performance of their winning song which usually involves them fucking around with each other, doing weird dances, interacting with the crowd—it’s just fun to watch!

Every show will let in a certain number of fans, but most of them are first come, first serve, so people will literally start lining up at like 2am. I would have loved to attend Inkigayo because in my opinion, that’s the best one, but I’m on vacation, man. I’m not spending my limited free time in Korea sitting on the ground with a bunch of kids. No offense, kids or Korean ground!

Some shows have a lottery system, but you have to register on their website which is all in Korean and a lot of times you have to have a Korean phone number too, and again — it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get in!

So when I saw that there is a special ticket just for foreigners to attend SBS MTV’s The Show, I was like, “Paid. Done.” This was literally right after we booked our flight in March! It was the very first thing we had our itinerary, lol.

It cost about $150 for the two of us, and I noticed that the prices went up as the date got closer, so I would encourage anyone who is interested in this to book it early! There are limited seats and the shows do sell out, so don’t wait until it’s only a week or two out, because you want to have a better idea of the artists that will be there that night!

For us, there weren’t any groups that we’re major stans of (except Pentagon), but the experience itself was still gold! Here was the lineup that was released earlier that morning:

Fun fact: I won a hi-touch for KNK at the first KCON I went to and I realize while typing this that it might as well be an trig equation for most of you reading this so I’ll break it down in non Kpop-speak: In 2017, I went to a Kpop festival in Newark and won a opportunity for what is called a “hi-touch” which basically means a Kpop group stands behind a table on a stage and fans are herded past in a single-file line and you get to quickly high five / hand touch each member. I know, right? You can read about my experience here!

It was starting to drizzle so we went inside the building. I was so nervous and I have NO IDEA why! Our spot inside the studio was secure, but my stomach was doing The Flops. Check out the older gentleman behind Chooch – he was totally there alone, and I thought it was awesome because kpop isn’t just for young girls and desperate old broads like me. There was even this totally metal dad there with his teenage daughter, and I mean METAL. He looked like someone in one of the Swedish metal bands my friend Alyson likes, though I think he may he may have been German?

I’m telling you, when you’re in Korea, whether you’re a Kpop junkie or not, I really feel like this is part of the experience.

At 4:30, four different tourism company representatives stood up with signs, and everyone had to line up behind the one they purchased their tickets from. Of course, the lady from Trazy, where we got ours, was barely holding up her sign so it cause confusion because what else is new?!

But it ended up being fine, because everyone received a number after checking in with her so we were able to go back and sit down until it was time to line up again.

Basically, it was a lot of waiting and standing in (dis)orderly lines.

We kind of befriended the young girl in front of us because she was just as nervous and confused as us. At one point, Chooch announced that it smelled like a shoe store in there, and she started giggling. “That’s so random!” she laughed.

Then she started talking to the girl next to her (again, the line was NOT straight), and that’s how I found out that she is only 16, from Spain, lives in Equador, but is currently studying in Korea, and the girl next to her is 23, from Australia and a student at one of the universities in Seoul.

It truly was a vast collection of foreigners up in there and it made me happy to see that we were all coming together for one shared love. While we were standing there, several of the groups walked by upstairs and everyone screamed. I had no idea who were clamoring over because I have the eyes of a 80-year-old who spends most of her life in a cave, but it was sure exciting!

I found out later that it was Limitless and CIX!

Finally, we were taken outside the lobby and into a side door, up several staircases, and down a hallway that just screamed, “YOU ARE BACKSTAGE.”

Oh yeah, Henry left after we taken into the studio. He had big plans to go to a grocery store but instead he just went back to the room because he’s a lamer.

Anyway, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures or video once the actual recording started, so I took this picture before it started, when it was still “legal,” and then I put my phone in my purse for the rest of the evening so I wouldn’t give the security any reason to believe I was being That American and have me ejected.

Seriously — I got kicked out of a Chinese restaurant once years and years ago because I was falsely accused of eating crab legs off the buffet without paying and I was like, “OK bitch, I’m a vegetarian?” but that didn’t matter and me and the dumb broad I was with were actually escorted out and it was so humiliating. And ever since,  I take great strides to make sure that I don’t get kicked out places.

#NeverForget #CharacterBuilding

In that picture above, you can see the small rectangular holding cell — that’s where the people who were picked from the crowd get to stand. Us foreigners got really nice, comfy stadium seating in the back, and the view was actually perfect.

Hang-y light things!

The show started promptly at 6pm and it was nuts to watch all the cameras swiveling and the different fan site representatives sitting a few rows in front of us, editing photos in Photoshop seconds after the pictures were taken. This shit is serious business.

The hosts of The Show are Yeeunfrom CLC and Jeno from NCT Dream, which I forgot about originally and when I saw all the girls with their NCT lightsticks, I was briefly hopeful that NCT Dream was going to be there since they currently were having a comeback.

Image result for yeeun and jeno the show 2019

They were standing SO CLOSE to our side of the seating too! Whenever they were MCing, they were facing us with their backs to the stage and it was fucking exciting, even though we had no idea what they were saying because in case you weren’t sure, subtitles don’t appear in real life.

Each artist performed one song, and they moved it along with razor-sharp precision. It was perfect for someone like Chooch who enjoys things like this….to a point. He does lose interest quickly, but this was fast-moving and fun and there was NO downtime, so he didn’t even have a chance to drift off.

We both really loved all of the performers, but my favorites were Dongkiz, VAV, CIX, Saturday, and Pentagon. However, since VAV, CIX and Pentagon were the three top groups that were competing for the trophy at the end, their performances were actually pre-recorded, so we only got to see about 1 minute of a live performance and then they would stop dancing, wave to the crowd and walk off the stage. KPOP SHOW SECRETS REVEALED! I knew that bigger groups, like BIGBANG and EXO for instance, typically pre-record their performances and I always wondered how that worked since they are always there at the end.

I don’t know. It’s still confusing to me.

Like, some of the groups performed two songs, but we only saw one because the second one was recorded earlier.

Here are the videos of my favorites from the night:

CIX: They were the winners of the night! They are a brand new group that recently debuted over the summer, featuring members of the defunct Wanna One (RIP) and some YG trainees. I think they’re going to go far! This song was stuck in my head for the rest of the time we were in Korea, and the dance IS SO GOOD.

Pentagon: I’m still bitter that E’Dawn isn’t with them anymore, but they never fail to make me smile. I was so happy to see them perform again after seeing them at KCON in 2018! If you don’t think this song is fun, then GTFO.

(J/K, you can stay the fuck here, I’m trying to be more inclusive LOLOL.)

Saturday: THIS SONG REMINDS ME OF THE STUFF THAT GOT ME INTO KPOP! The adorable, quirky, sugary girl group bops. The whole time I watched their performance, all I could think was, “This is peak Korea for me. It can’t get any more heavenly than this.”

(But then a few days later, it did.)

Dongkiz: I have never heard of these guys before this night and they’re not even really a rookie group anymore, but this performance won me over. They are so joyful! And the Ghostbusters sample! And the actual ghost mascot! And their cute dance moves! Chooch and I fell hard for them.

OK, honestly I could sit here all night posting videos and then it would eventually just be every single stage because they were all so entertaining! There wasn’t one group that made me go, “Eh, they’re not for me.” I enjoyed them all!

It was over around 7:30 and as we stood outside in the courtyard of the Prism building, texting Henry, two girls ran past us in a Big Hurry.

“Something’s going on!” Chooch yelled, peeling out of the lot in his Mystery Van.

We ran (crowd mentality) in the same direction, around to the other side of the building, and that’s where we saw some fansite paparazzi standing on actual ladders, taking pictures with their gigantic $878947293874 lens of the idols being interviewed inside the lobby.

I texted Henry and told him what was happening, and he eventually meandered over to us, because he had already returned to the Prism building – he must have missed us!

It was a good thing that we followed those girls, because even though we had to wait and be patient for about 45 minutes, some of the idols actually exited the building  right by where we were standing! (The path from the doors to the road were roped off and security was there, so we couldn’t stampede them, even though I’m sure if certain other groups were there that night, a dinky rope wasn’t going to stop anyone.)

It took us forever but I think we eventually decided that this was Dongkiz?! I don’t know enough about them to know for sure! It could be 1Team too.

But here is a collection of videos that Chooch snagged because let me tell you, that boy got caught up in the excitement and was acting like he STANNED every single one of these idols!

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Kpop idol sightings outside of The Show on 7/30. It was so much fun!

A post shared by Erin (@ohhonestlyconcerts) on

The other group in the video is for sure VAV. And in the first Instagram video I posted earlier in this literal novella ends with CIX driving past and it is so cute (we actually figured out that they were leaving through a different door so we ran over to the other exit just in time to watch their car pulling away!).

You guys, this was exhilarating! I felt so legit! This was a bucket list item FOR SURE.

I wonder if Chooch will tell his kids about it someday…

…and I wonder how weird they will think it is…

Afterward, we went back to Hongdae. Chooch and Henry ate at Mom’s Touch but I was pouting because I wanted Isaac Toast but THEY WERE CLOSED. Like, since when does anything close at 9pm in Seoul.

Chooch was fucking exhausted, lol.

We watched some buskers on the way back to our room and then tortured Henry with Slaphappy Hour.

This was hands down the best birthday of my whole entire life—OK, tied with the one two years ago when I went to see G-Dragon in Toronto, was second row from the stage and got to be like FIVE FEET FROM HIM during his performance of “Untitled.” That too was a pretty fucking bar-raising birthday.

NOW WHAT WILL I DO FOR MY FIFTIETH?!

Sep 032019
 

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!

Poop bread!

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.

I.LOVE.THIS.DISH.

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!

Sep 022019
 

The rain held off for the rest of the day, so we were able to enjoy the outdoor portion of Lotte World, too! First, we had to get the obligatory Instagram shot.

This park is so ADORABLE.

The outdoor portion didn’t seem like it was all that crowded—because everyone was already camping out in the outrageous lines. (Note to self: go back to this park in the spring time when all the kids are in school!)

Look, I know it’s no Cinderella’s Castle, but this castle is iconic in Korea and it was so cool to see it in real life!

During our outdoor jaunt, we at lunch at this place called School Food, where Chooch had cheesy ramen and I had tteokbokki and mandu — not something I would ever think I’d eat at an amusement park! Henry was all, “I DON’T WANT TO EAT ANYTHING HERE” but then he ended up eating our leftovers, so….

Henry’s favorite moments are when he’s able to wander of without off, like here, where he had a minute to stare sadly at a lake before we summoned him back to us and began firing off more demands.

We found this little house with candy stuck to it and I yelled, “IS THIS A RIDE?!!?” and I mean, people were standing in a line next to it, so that was enough confirmation for me.

“What even is this?” Henry asked, and I just shrugged. Who cares?! It was a house with candy stuck to it!

Candy roof-nipples!

Henry was like, “There are lots of little kids standing in this line” and I guess he was insinuating it was a KIDS RIDE but since when has that stopped me? Because of that though, he was like, “I’ll just see myself out of here,” and went and stood alone like the predator we all know him to be.

But you guys! Once we were let inside the doorway, we had to TAKE AN ESCALATOR down to another floor and I was like, “Whhhaaaat is this going to be?” OH I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT WAS! It was a dark ride! Like It’s a Small World but with candy and clowns and a dragon and singing flowers and and and…

…we had to sit in a train and enter the ride through a clown’s mouth!!!

This was my favorite ride at Lotte World! I told my friend Jiyong about it after I came back to Pittsburgh and she literally had no idea what ride I was talking about and then, after she looked it up on her phone, said, “Oh, because it’s a childrens ride.”

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, JIYONG??

I sent this to coulrophobic Wendy and she was like, “Wow, it’s nice to know you still torture your friends while on the other side of the world.”

You’re welcome, Wendy. I do my best!

Immediately after, I decided I wanted to ride this outside coaster called Atlantis. The line was relatively long, but I conned Chooch into getting standing in it by reminding him that we may never be in Korea again and YOLO, whatever. He is absolutely spoiled when it comes to going to non-crowded amusement parks because we had a super longstreak where we just timed our trips right and wound up at parks on super light attendance days where we just walk right on rides. Well, guess what pal? This is what it’s like in the real world, so suck it up.

Right when we got in line, Chooch noticed a Gongcha, which is a super popular chain of Taiwen boba tea, so he sent Henry over to get him one. We watched Henry standing there in line and didn’t think anything of it, but then the next thing we knew, Henry had rejoined us…EMPTY-HANDED.

“Where’s my Gongcha?!” Chooch shrieked.

“The line was too long,” Henry replied calmly, because our histrionics don’t faze him at all anymore. “I’ll go see what else I can find you,” and he strode away.

And then we we were without Wifi for a REALLY LONG TIME because he had the wifi thingie in his man-purse and was probably making his food-stand rounds instead of procuring Chooch a boba tea…

…which he proved when he came back 45 minutes later with a Smoothie King smoothie, which sent Chooch over the edge.

Still in line! I think I took this picture at the point where it said we had 80 minutes left.

That sign LIED.

I mean, it sucked standing in line for so long, but since it was Korea, we actually had really decent, inoffensive people in line around with us, like the group of high school boys in front of us who were SO COOL and I wanted to be a part of their crew in the worst way. I don’t care how creepy it makes me, I had so much fun standing there and listening to them talk, and I even understood a little!

“That one right there is the leader,” I whispered to Henry one of the times he came back to “visit.” Chooch just rolled his eyes because he was so annoyed at everything by now.

There was also a young couple behind us, they weren’t Korean; it sounded like they were speaking in Thai, maybe? I’m not sure! But they also spoke English and I know this because the girl part of the couple was super concerned when she spotted a bug in my hair and was sweet enough to alert me about it, and then they both assisted in helping me get it out. It was so kind! Chooch and I agreed later on that this probably wouldn’t have happened in America.

“Yeah, people would have just made fun of me about it behind my back,” I sighed.

Chooch was using the faux rock wall to hold himself up. It’s amazing how tired standing in line can make you.

When we eventually got to the platform-part of the queue, we got to skip to the front because the ride attendants were looking for two people to fill one of the cars — and it was the front row!

I thought the coaster was worth the wait – it was pretty thrilling and had some indoor elements too which I like! And I know enough Korean to know that the girls behind us were shrieking, “WE’RE GOING TO DIE” lol.

Chooch was just like, “IT WAS GOOD BUT WE WAITED IN LINE FOR LIKE 2 HOURS” and then pretty much complained about that for the remainder of our trip.

We ventured back inside after that and it was definitely more crowded now. I don’t think any of the rides had a wait time that was less than 180 minutes by now….

…except for the haunted house!

We had to pay extra for it but whatever – the wait was only about 15 minutes.

Spoiler: we escaped. It was your typical country fair-level haunt, and I think only two actual scare actors were inside. One was super laissez faire with their role, and the other kind of got into it, but the scariest thing for me was the fact that I was creeping around a dark haunted house with only one contact in.

Then as we were walking, a parade ended and everyone turned around and walked right toward us, like a literal Korean Wave, and I got caught in the undertow.

“10 million people in Seoul and a million of them are here right now,” Henry said after we swam to shore. It was overwhelming! But not as scary as it would have been if this happened in like, NYC or something. No one really pushes or shoves in Seoul, for what it’s worth.

We got some ice cream and were just about ready to punch out for the day when I noticed an entire kiddie section that we had missed earlier and I became obsessed with riding this dumb fish ride. Even this had about a 30 minute wait (I have never waited this long for a freaking kids attraction before!) but again, standing in line for rides in Korea is not as excruciating as it in America.

The whole time we were in line, Chooch kept saying, ‘We have to get the puffer fish!” and I was like, “Sure whatever,” but then when it was our turn, the ride attendant came over and said, “Oh no, you can ride by yourself,” to Chooch, because the front seat on the fish are smaller and meant for little kids, so Chooch was SO PISSED because now he had to ride in a different fish while I got to stay in the puffer fish, and not only that, but we were THE ONLY PEOPLE RIDING ALONE WITHOUT SMALL CHILDREN and it was so uncomfortable but oh well, YOLO remember.

Jackass Henry took pictures with his crappy phone but you can tell that Chooch is super sulky here, haha.

We picked up some stuff in the gift shop and then decided to peace out. It was 7pm at that point and the lines weren’t getting any shorter…

Chooch was soooooo cranky, but THANK GOD he got a seat on the subway. Trolling for seats is his specialty.

…so we left, rode the subway 20+ stops back to Hongdae, dropped our stuff off, and then headed back out to Dongdaemun/Jongno for some late night food and giddiness.

Overall, this was a great pre-birthday celebration. I love amusement parks so much and couldn’t imagine a Korean vacation without including one!

****

PRO TIP: If you ever go to Seoul and want to visit Lotte World, they have huge discounts for foreigners! We got ours through Trazy.com, but there are a number of websites that offer comparable deals, so don’t go to the gate and pay full price! 

Aug 292019
 

Every time I hear “Lotte World,” I imagine Pee Wee yelling, “SCREAM REAL LOUD!!!” and then in my head, I scream real loud because anytime I do that out loud, people think I’m either IN trouble or that I AM trouble and let’s be real, either one of those could be true at any given time.

Let me back up a minute. Lotte World is not only considered Korea’s Disneyland, but it also just happens to be the largest indoor amusement park IN THE WORLD.

THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!

It also has an outdoor section, too!

Originally, I planned to go here on my actual birthday, but then  that turned out to be the day of the kpop show, so Lotte World birthday pre-gaming it was!

But first — idol sandwich for breakfast!

And Henry had his basic red bean bun.

Then Chooch and I had to go and get our daily elevator selfie and also a picture of the view of Hongdae.

I have this Instax taped to my monitor at work and I blow it a kiss every now and then OK FINE IT’S THE TAEMIN BACKGROUN ON MY COMPUTER THAT I’M BLOWING A KISS TO, GODDAMMIT.

I dunno, I just thought this broom was nice-looking.

We had to take the subway out to Jamsil, and this was the first time we made it out to this area, which is nuts because it’s where the famous Lotte World Tower is and that’s like a total tourist destination. Imagine my surprised when we were walking through the subway station and stumbled upon this “little” slice of Italy! Yeah, just chilling underground, you guys, this luxurious fountain.

No big deal.

Then we emerged from the subway like mole people and this humongous phallic symbol of Seoul was thrusting its shiny tip into the heavens right before us. There’s an observation deck up there but…heights.

And then there it was—Lotte World!

Oh, also in case you didn’t know, Lotte is a HUGE corporation in Korea. They have luxury hotels, department stores, food (Choco Pies!)—don’t fuck with Lotte, is all I’m saying. You might end up at the bottom of the Han River with a cinder block tied to your ankle.

Chooch said he didn’t agree to this pose but I was like IT’S THE DAY BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY JUST DO IT.

We had to go into some special foreigner office to get our discounted tickets and then Chooch was like, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU” because I kept trying to hand my ticket to a Lotte World worker at the ticket turnstile to have them scan it but it turned out IT WAS A KID, LIKE A YOUNGGGGG KID who was just standing there waiting for his family and I felt like such a stoop but look—I was still just wearing the one contact, OK?

I will milk that excuse for all it’s worth, you betcha.

Anyway, look how fancy the lobby area was!

Family portrait. We *mostly* got along all day. *Mostly.* There were moments, though.

Then suddenly—BAM. We were inside Lotte World and it was staggering. Also, it was already pretty crowded even though it was only 9:30AM and had just barely opened. But look at that layered cake of amusement!

One thing I wasn’t stoked about was the pirate ship. I just generally dislike them lately because they make me literally feel seasick, and for some reason, seeing this gigantic one INSIDE made me feel so terrified.

Luckily, the line for it was ridiculously long all day so Chooch never even once entertained the idea of riding it.

We did ride Sinbad though! Lotte World has so many cool dark rides! Granted, we had no idea what was being said during the ride, but they were fucking fun! IT WAS A BOAT RIDE!!!

When we were standing in line for it, Henry murmured, “I wish we had a washing machine in the bathroom at home…” because he was OBSESSED with washing clothes every night in our guest house bathroom.

The Thoughts Henry Has.

We thought we were going to have the front row but then dumb fast pass people showed up and stole it from us, story of our lives.

(We were just bitter because Henry is too cheap to get us fast passes.)

30th anniversary, apparently!

Lotte World was so massive inside that it was hard to understand just how to get from one place to the next. It took us a stupidly long time to find the line for French Revolution and that had nothing to do with being foreigners — the signs were in English! There were just so many nooks and crannies like Thomas left the English Muffin factory to give amusement park designing a go. Random staircases were nearly hidden in the dimly lit hallways and we never did figure out how to get to the 4th floor until the end of the day. It was nuts and I already can’t wait to go back during the off season to really explore that motherfucker!

OMG for some reason, I really latched on to the rapids ride they have there. I mean, first of all, it’s indoors and that made it seem so much scarier! We rode it with some lady and her two kids who did not seem happy to be on it probably because the mom kept making them smile for pictures.

Even Henry rode it with us! And then he would tap out, having ridden two whole rides first thing in the morning. He spent the rest of the day people-watching while Chooch and I aged exponentially in lines.

Like when we were standing in line for what we thought was the French Revolution, because we were literally standing right next to part of it. It was about an hour long wait, I would say, but it went fast because so much was happening around us. First, there was a young elementary school and his sister in front of us, and he was happy to get to practice his English on us. HE WAS SO FUCKING CUTE. I have spent my entire blogging career (lol) bitching about how much I hate children, but Korean children are the exception. They were just wonderful and adorable and I made the mistake of telling Chooch once on the subway that I love listening to them talk and he congratulated me for being a predator but WHATEVER CHOOCH YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS THAT I LIKE KOREAN KIDS BETTER THAN YOU.

Then this kid starts talking to us about the French Revolution and how scary it is, etc and I was like, “Wow, what a brave kid, standing in line for this roller coaster even though he’s clearly terrified of it.” But then he and his sister decided that the wait was too long so they said bye and peaced out. Now there were new people in front of us, and one of them spent THE ENTIRE TIME taking selfies of herself so I had to keep ducking and turning my head or else I’d have ugged-up some nice Korean girl’s selfie bigtime.

MEANWHILE, there was live entertainment below us. Lotte’s house band was down there playing Baby Shark and Chooch demanded that Henry go to the source and record it for Calvin who, like all 2-year-olds and probably some weird adults, loves Baby Shark.

I looked over the railing after a minute or two and thought for sure I saw Henry but it turned out to be some pot-bellied ahjussi, so Chooch and I were nearly peeing our pants over this but then a minute later, I looked again…

AND HENRY WAS STANDING NEXT TO HIM!!!

OMG.

Then I was like, “WHY IS HIS HAIRLINE SO WIDE?!?!” and we were cracking up over it so I airdropped the picture to Chooch and he airdropped this one back to me:

And to top it all off, Chooch does the best impression of Henry which makes Henry look like a barbarian, and Chooch does this grunting thing that sounds like Paul Eugene and I swear that Henry doesn’t actually grunt when he walks, but it is SO FUCKING FUNNY TO ME that I had to beg Chooch to stop because I was seriously coming super close to peeing my pants and people in line around us were probably SO ANNOYED at the obnoxious Americans but I couldn’t help it—making fun of Henry is Chooch’s and my best hobby.

Oh, my stomach hurt badly from laughing.

Then Henry came back up to the line after we had moved forward considerably and Chooch stopped laughing and barked, “WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU. DID YOU GET A RECORDING OF BABY SHARK” because he’s more of a nagging wife than I am, and Henry calmly said that no, he didn’t, because the band had already moved on to the next song by the time he managed to weave through the labyrinthine hallways to find the steps and he excitedly told us that the foreign girls dancing in the performance were scantily-clad in bikinis while the Korean girl dancers were wearing really nice and respectable dresses.

If Henry kept a diary, this would have been the only thing he wrote that day.

After standing in the extended queue for about 45 minutes, we were finally ushered into the entrance of the ride, where of course there was more standing but at least we were inside the main queue now, which was dark and made to look like a cave, so of course I tripped–HARD–and again I loudly reminded those around me that I was only wearing one contact.

Just the one.

In one eyeball.

When I have two eyes.

And then my favorite thing ever happened! WE GOT TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE AND I SAW THE RIDE VEHICLE.

IT WAS NOT A COASTER.

IT WAS A SAFARI JEEP THING.

WE HAD BEEN STANDING IN LINE FOR THE WRONG RIDE THAT WHOLE TIME!!

This ended up being some type of Indiana Jones-like ride called Pharaoh’s Fury and it was actually a lot of fun but my feelings were all wacked out because I spent an hour thinking I was going on some crazy-ass coasters with a bunch of inversions, but oh well. Lotte World had other plans for me.

SERIOUSLY I NEED TO STUDY THE LAYOUT OF THIS PARK NEXT TIME.

As the day went on, the line for French Revolution kept getting longer and longer until it was eventually like 250 minutes so, no French Revolution for me.

Stay tuned for the second half of our Lotte World adventures!

Aug 282019
 

After leaving the mural village, we spent the rest of the afternoon being nebby (Pittsburghese for nosey, yo) in Jeonju. HERE ARE SOME MORE PICTURES and then we can move on to the next day.

I loved this classic-looking store!

Gray skies & sunflowers.

The Daeseongjeon Shrine was under construction but we were still able to explore it.

Korea is chockful of these beautiful, historical shrines. My favorite parts of them is the underneath of the roof — there is a name for that, I think!? There’s always the coolest designs painted in bright reds, greens, and blues.

Being presh + Henry’s finger that I forgot to crop out. He’s such a great photog.

Nearby, there was some summer festival going on with a huge blown-up pool. Some of the locals tried to coax Chooch into swimming but he shyly said no — people in Jeonju were SO NICE.

There were several caricature places around, but I was drawn to this girl’s little studio.

She was so cute!

It’s tradition now for Chooch to get a caricature in Korea, I guess. I love this one and it also marked the first time ever that I got to say “daebak” in Korea. The artist loved that I said that and gave me a thumbs up, haha.

We went back to the choco pie bakery to get a box of them. There was no way I was leaving without more!

I loved that there were places of tranquility all around.

LOLOLOL so Henry kept wandering off and by the time we would realize, he’d be on the other side of the street and the only reason we would even realize is because he was the keeper of the wifi and if he strayed too far, we’d lose our connection. Chooch was constantly trying to play Pokemon Go so he’d usually be the first to notice.

Anyway, Henry was like straight up Peeping Tom’ing all the food vendors from afar and I was like, “OMG he looks like Michael Myers! He’s so creepy!” so then Chooch and I kept humming the Halloween theme and Henry was like WHY R U DOING THAT when we caught up to him but then we were laughing too hard by then to talk.

So one of the times he roamed away from us was to splurge on a BEER but not just any BEER, it was BEER with HONEY drizzled on top.

And he immediately got it all over his stupid beard.

Then we lost him again and when Chooch asked where he went, I said, “I dunno. Probably off looking for Laurie Strode” so then we lost it all over again.

Ugh Jeonju made us so slaphappy.

Random butts!

I am constantly craving bingsu so we stopped in 1723 Cafe for a fix.

It was really pretty inside, like a peaceful escape! I chose a secluded table though because Chooch and I were getting super hyper at this point and there was group of super cool looking high school boys in their uniforms sitting by the counter and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them, so we sent Henry up to order by himself.

FUCK you guys, I think this may have been the best bingsu I had on this trip. It was black sesame, red bean, walnuts, injeolmi (sweet soy powder, which is one of the BEST bingsu ingredients), and pumpkin. It was fucking divine and I regret so hard that I chose to share this with Henry. I could have easily inhaled that whole thing on my own.

Chooch got this refreshing parfait.

This is going to be futile to try and put into words, but while we were here, Henry finally cracked and started fighting back after we mocked him mercilessly for the 83749827498245th time that day.

“OK! Every time I say something, you have to say it twice three four times!” and shit motherfucker goddamn you guys, the way he said it was SO STUPIDLY FUNNY that we cracked the FUCK up all over again and Chooch went the extra mile by spitting his water into his hand.

The way he said “twice three four times” though!!! It was like “twice three-FOUR” times, like he couldn’t decide how many times and just kept moving the number up in a weird stutter, and we latched on to this SO HARD. Ir’s been a month and we still say it to him every chance we get and he is just like IT WASN’T THAT FUNNY.

Au contraire!

Then we had to quickly leave before we caused any more of a scene, but it wouldn’t be a Korea Vacation if we didn’t cause one every day.

We also spent some time tooling around this Cathedral which I already posted about because I like to jump around and stay unorganized.

We had to be back at the train station in time for our train back to Seoul, which was around 7PM, so we quickly shopped for some moju, which is a traditional Jeonju liquor with medicinal properties. It tastes like cinnamon, actually, and is super refreshing. Chooch and I also put money in some weird traditional capsule machine to get what I thought was going to be some astrological toy, like a year of the whatever animal thing, but ended up being our horoscopes in Korean, so that was 1000 won…not very well spent. Except that I was excited because I was at least able to figure out which machine we each had to use for our birth year. It was the most complicated, rudimentary capsule machine I’ve ever used.

Took a taxi back to the station and the guy was listening to Western soft rock which was interesting and he was also an aggressively efficient driver who saved us time from sitting in taxi traffic and extra fare by pointing to the train station from across a courtyard and basically kicking us out of his car.

I was excited to sit next to some Korean soldiers in the waiting area but then asshole Henry made me get up for no reason and I lost my seat. PRO TIP: a surefire way to make locals like you in Korea is to move over so that they have room to sit. Every time I did this small act of courtesy, the thankful response I got was startling. When we were sitting outside in the air-conditioned sitting area, I squeezed over closer to Chooch and motioned for an older woman to sit down next to me and she was happy about it. I am forever wanting to be liked in Korea (I’m so pathetic) and this is a really good way!

I was actually pretty sad to leave! Like I mentioned before, Jeonju is a pretty popular domestic tourist area, but it doesn’t seem like it’s a place that foreigners really travel to. If you ever go to South Korea, pencil this onto your itinerary! Obviously, there are a lot of other things to do while in Jeonju, not just the hanok village, so I think it’s going to be on our agenda when we go back to Korea.

On the train ride back, Henry was in an entirely different car and Chooch and I were also separated. He sat next to a young guy who watched kdramas on his phone and I sat next to a young girl who slept the whole time and I definitely nodded off here and there too but the ride back was ROUGH so I kept waking up in a jolt thinking that we were derailing. I’m not kidding, it was pretty scary.

It was after 11 by the time we got back to Hongdae and I don’t think any of us had trouble falling asleep, and I’m pretty sure it was also the first time I slept straight through the night until a reasonable hour the next morning! Jeonju was exhausting.

Aug 262019
 

While walking around Jeonju Hanok Village, we randomly climbed up a small hillside just for funsies because why not go on a mini-hike in the middle of an Asian summer while the air is pregnant with condensation, ready to pop.

Seriously, if you’re the type that goes on vacations to loaf, lounge, and leisure, don’t travel with us. We don’t feel like we got the most out of our days unless we’re tucking ourselves in with sore, busted bodies at night.

I loved the aerial views we got of the hanok village.

Here’s Henry dreaming of living out here, alone…just a middle-aged man and his kimchi pots.

Chooch recreated his Instagram-famous Gamcheon Culture Village pose from last year.

Anyway, the little hill wasn’t that large so we made it to the top in no time. It was just like a little forest park up there, and we considered just turning around and heading back, but then we saw another set of steps on the other side of the hill, so we took those ones to see where they led, because YOLO or whatever, right?

Do the kids still say that?

No?

Good.

Anyway, at the bottom of the steps, we found ourselves outside of the hanok village and next to a road, and across the street was Jaman Mural Village, which was actually on my list of things to see in Jeonju!

Also, Korea and their mural villages. Jesus.

Since the day was so dreary, the mural village was a ghost town, although there was this group of tourists, who we think were German, that we kept running into and they were getting on Henry’s nerves for some reason.

We happened upon this food stand which was featured on Korean Englishman (one of our favorite YouTubers). They sell waffle-wrapped bibimbap but tragically, we were all still too full from our lunch to try one! #ANGONYFACEEMOJI

I tried to coax Henry into buying one just so I could have a bite but even Trashcan Stomach had reached his food intake limit, can you ever believe it.

FUCK I WANT ONE OF THOSE RIGHT NOW.

It started raining so we dipped into the closest cafe and it was so quaint! The older woman running it was very sweet and it was a comfortable refuge from the downpour. There were two high school-aged girls sitting near us, giggling like….well, school girls. I loved it. Chooch was obsessed with this book by Neil Patrick Harris so he was happy to have an opportunity to relax and get some reading in.

The Maybe Germans walked by while we were inside and Henry was so angry.

The rain died down after 30 minutes or so and we continued our exploration of the village. Chooch found a cat almost immediately and then I became with these fruit-things, which Henry’s phone said might be guava.

If so, I’m no longer obsessed.

Guava and I just aren’t friends. I don’t mind guava flavored things but the actual fruit can go kindly fuck itself.

Jaman Mural Village is built into a steep hillside so the views were sweeping no matter where you stood.

This little path was so steep and my backpack kept threatening to topple me over backward.

When Chooch and I posed for this, I bitched because I wanted Chooch to do the same pose as me….

…so he did, but then he called me a crybaby. WHATEVER, IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY TRIP NOT HIS.

Random Edward Scissorhands mural.

This cafe though!!! I wish it wasn’t closed that day.

You never when you’re going to turn a corner in Korea and find yourself in front of some historical monument from an ancient dynasty.

It never gets old.

Me, my iced Americano, and the Imokdae memorial.

And then more murals of Western pop stars…

While on the hillside, we also stumbled upon a lady running a balloon-dart game, which Chooch sucked at and only managed to get a small prize, which was some strange stuffed cartoon carp.

I BET YOU THINK THIS JEONJU IS CLOSED NOW. Well, you’re wrong. Get out your bookmark because the Neverending Story, Part Korea continues tomorrow with (probably) one last Jeonju recap, and then FINALLY I can start telling you about our day at Lotte World, a/k/a Korea’s Disneyworld. It was quite an experience.

Aug 232019
 

Oh shit you guys, I can’t even tell you how stoked I was for our Jeonju day trip! It almost didn’t happen though because Henry went online to get train tickets the night before and they were all sold out because it’s a popular daytrip destination. But then the next morning, Henry found seats on a different train which were a little more expensive because it’s a sightseeing/tourist train, but YOLO right, guys? I was excited to go to Seoul Station and go down to the train platform! I’m a little kid when it comes to these things so I get easily excited and giddy.

GIDDY ON THE PLATFORM.

Since it was a tourist train, it went a bit slower than the KTX…but it was SO PRETTY!

Highly recommend this train for your slower-paced sightseeing needs.

Chooch was repulsed because I got a pack of chestnuts for my train snack but hey, it’s a popular Korean snack so don’t knock it.

The day started out all gray-skied and sprinkly again but this was really the only day we had available to make this trip so RAIN OR SHINE, MOTHERFUCKERS. I still enjoyed looking at the Korean countryside on the way there. Mountains galore! Henry sat behind us watching boring Middle Aged Man shows on Netflix (probably something about cops) and Chooch alternated between watching dumb YouTube videos and reading. Me? I just observed the people around us (this one guy brought corn on the cob for a snack and he ate it with such confidence that I decided I wanted to live my life like that guy, although it’s been a month and I still haven’t eaten corn on the cob on public transportation. Maybe I’ll whip one out on the trolley this week.

We arrived at the Jeonju train station around 11am and took a taxi (our first Korean taxi!) to Jeonju Hanok Village. It was about a fifteen minute trip and easier than trying to figure out which bus to take.

The Hanok Village here is one of the largest in Korea and if you have learned anything about me from (pretending to) read these Korea recaps, it’s that I love me some hanok. But the main reason why I wanted to go is because it’s also the birthplace of my favorite Korean dish, bibimbap. This was the first Korean food I ever had, decades ago, and likely didn’t even realize I was eating Korean food at the time. I had a friend (emphasis on “had”) whose family friends owned a Korean restaurant here and sometimes we would go so she could visit with the daughter who was around our age. Being a vegetarian, I always got the same thing: bibimbap. I remember loving that it came with a fried egg on top, and that I could NEVER remember the name and always called it “that beebop thing.” Oh, what a long way I’ve come!

It’s funny how exciting a travel day within a vacation can be! There are still thousands of things we have left to explore in Seoul alone, but that city still feels somewhat familiar to us, so getting away for a day to traipse around a quieter, smaller city was thrilling. I was so happy to be there! Even though Jeonju’s hankok village is a popular tourist destination (even for domestic travel), it was still so much quieter and slower-paced than being in Seoul.

Chooch was starting to get his hunger-attitude (note the forced smile) so after a brief walk of the area, we decided it was time to find a bibimbap place, and fast. Luckily, there were a ton to choose from.

Henry was already walking so far ahead of us because we get on his nerves, I guess. THAT’S FINE. It’s easier for us to make fun of him this way. And oh, the fun we made, folks. OH THE FUN WE MADE.

We chose this cute little spot for our bibimbap lunch. Except that Henry doesn’t like bibimbap and got something else.

Doesn’t he just look so wonderful to be around? Luckily, the food really gave him life.

The best thing about Korean restaurants is that even though you typically get your food really fast, you’re given an array of banchan (side dishes) to share before your main meal comes out so any present HANGER is sure to quickly subside almost immediately after ordering.

SO SMART.

Plus, the banchan is usually an assortment of kimchi and other vegetables, so it’s not like filling up on mozzarella sticks and loaded potato skins. It’s a healthy yet delicious pre-game! Also, most restaurants give free refills on the banchan too! You’re lucky if you can get free drink refills in most American restaurants these days.

THE MAIN ATTRACTION: Jeonju bibimbap! It was very satisfying and filling without making me feel like I had a rice-brick in my stomach, which is how I sometimes feel after eating bibimbap in America. This one was light and had an interesting variety of vegetables not usually found in Western bibimbap, like fernbrake, a walnut, something that I believe was a gingko nut?

Another must-do in Jeonju is PNB BAKERY! It claims to be one of the oldest bakeries in Korea, but also the originator of the famous choco pies, which have become mass-produced by companies such as Lotte and Orion. North Korea banned them in 2014 and they have since become a hot commodity on the black market. The NK soldier who defected last year requested a choco pie when he was in the hospital and Orion gave him a lifetime supply.

Choco pies are NO JOKE in Korea. We buy boxes of them sometimes at the Asian market here in Pittsburgh, but like anything else, they taste so much better in Korea.

But these ones from PNB? Holy goddamn shit, next level. They are, obviously, unbelievably fresh and come in 6 varieties, and instead of a marshmallow filling like the ones from Lotte and Orion, these ones are stuffed with fresh, smooth cream.

Hold on. I’m choking on my saliva at the memory.

We each bought one to eat while we were there, and then stopped back to get a box before going back to Seoul, and believe me — we tried to make them last as long as possible once we got back to Pittsburgh, but it was tough. These things are legit.

I have to see if I can buy them online…

Hanok Village has lots of soothing fountain and water features throughout, and the main drag is even divided by a little stream which was delightful to walk along. You could also rent these little electric car things which were kind of golf carts but cooler and Chooch was begging us to get one but only because he wanted to drive it and there was no way that was happening. Those things were a hazard with OTHER people driving them, I can only imagine the devastation that Chooch would leave in his wake.

We almost got flattened several times by those things.

We went inside this nice (TOO NICE) boutique of local crafts and tea sets, but pretty much everything was well out of our budget (and probably most people’s budgets, if we’re being honest – Chooch’s eyes bugged out at some of the price tags). There were things in there that I could definitely imagine my grandma making my pappap buy though.

So, you know. It was like THAT.

One of those OMG DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING shops.

It sure was pretty though.

A lot of the shops and restaurants were just in Korean so it was another time when it was helpful that I could at least read it. I’m pretty much map-illiterate (I couldn’t remember the word ‘illiterate’ and had to google it, I swear the only thing that has changed about me since turning 40 is that I’m getting dumber quicker), so I’m always happy to have some other useful skill while traveling, lol. Because aside from that I’m W-O-R-T-H-L-E-S-S.

Just like my daddy used to always say!

Lol.

Remember when I said I’m obsessed with hanok?

Yeah. Sigh.

More dumb poses.

Then we were like, “WHAT IS UP THERE I WONDER” because we some people climbing the steps so we followed like lemmings and that is how we exactly found the MURAL VILLAGE which is coming atchu next time, let a girl rest her fingertips. Ouch.

Aug 222019
 

I’m really slogging through this as fast as I can before I start forgetting the pertinents! It was all such a whirlwind and I didn’t realize just how much we actually did until I started sorting through all the pictures on my phone, like whoa.

But anyway, after an afternoon of shopping in superfluous Sinsa stores, we got back on the subway to go even deeper into Gangnam, where Coex and SMTown reside in all their Goliath glory.

We went to SMTown last year as well…but the museum portion of the experience was not yet fully constructed so of course I needed to go back because there is an entire SHINee exhibit and that alone was worth to me, especially since SHINee themselves have toured it!

Also something to note is that this time around, Henry was so much more experienced with the subway, that he got us straight to Coex with no hiccups. In fact, this time we got off at an exit that literally spilled us right out into the Coex/SMtown plaza and I asked, “Why didn’t we go this way last year?” and he just glowered at me in response.

I dunno, I guess Google maps had a big update since the last time we were there and now it actually tells you which line and exit to take. It definitely did not do that last time and Naver maps is all in Korean, so it was like taking a leap of faith every time we got on the subway.

Once we were inside SMTown, Henry very quickly bowed out of touring the actual museum portion because it cost like $15 god forbid. So Chooch and I went ahead and did this without him. We got to choose from a variety of passes to wear around our necks and we made a huge production out of this. The SHINee ones that had available were an Odd Eye design, and then ones with Onew and Key. I was sad there was no Taemin option (and I also found this kind of strange!) so I chose Key because I was really liked his solo album from earlier in the year. Chooch chose one that had a black and white picture of Red Velvet and then painstakingly filled out the back with his contact information while an SMTown employee giggled at him.

The museum is actually quite large and takes you down SM memory lane, starting with the founding of SM in 1989 by Lee Soo-man, who was also a performer himself. Before BTS broke into the western market, SM was widely considered to be the apex of the Hallyu Wave what with the crazy success and popularity of groups like TVXQ, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, SHINee, and EXO. They figured out the formula and ran with it.

There are also displays of various outfits/costumes worn in popular music videos, like the above suits that my beloved SHINee wore in their first comeback video after the passing of Jonghyun, “Good Evening.”

Each group or artist had their own section of memorabilia, history, behind the scenes photos from videos. And there were also rooms designed to make it look like you were on the set of certain videos, with photo ops! This was our favorite part.

Of course we had to stand in a stupid line at the end and buy prints of the ones we liked best (which was all of them but Henry had joined us at this point and was like JUST PICK A FEW!!!!! as Won signs came out of his ears like smoke signals.

It was cool because the idols “interacted” with you before the pictures were taken. Chooch was really good at acting back with them but I always just stood there with one hand up and a surprised look on my stupid face. There was also an option to purchase a digital video of all of the “photo shoots” too but I didn’t want a forever-copy of myself looking like a deer in headlights.

I thought that maybe Chooch would get bored or rush me through, but he was just as interested and entertained as I was. We had fun looking for all of our favorites in the big collage of Polaroids and sending Henry photos of his Red Velvet and NCT biases (he never thanked us, by the way).

Actual wardrobe from various videos and music show performances!

Shockingly, there weren’t a ton of people there that day (that’s because they were all in the cafe and gift shop, as we’d find out later) so we really got to take our time and mess around with props and read all of the interesting descriptions.

Maybe you might be thinking, “This is so stupid, why would you want to do something like this while in Seoul” and it’s kind of similar to going to the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame in Cleveland–if you really like a certain type of music, these things aren’t stupid or a waste of time. For me, it’s like paying respect to groups that have added so much light and happiness to my life!

To Henry, it’s just another way for SM to be even more of a cash cow, and…I won’t disagree with that, lol. But even with all the hardships and scandals YG Entertainment has been going through, if they offered an experience like this, you best believe I’d be relinquishing my wallet to them.

And if a museum ever opened in England in homage to the Cure? Book me the next flight.

I love shit like this.

Sweet Jonghyun. </3

These are the clothes from the View video.

And this whole room had artifacts from the Married to the Music video which is coincidentally playing behind me as I type this!

The first time I saw this video, I fell in love with SHINee even harder and knew that stanning them was right.

It gave me so many Halloween dinner party ideas!

Some f(x) love! I don’t think they’re ever coming out of hiatus though, sadly. Krystal just recently announced that she doesn’t want to perform anymore, but I hope she at least keeps acting because she is always so good in dramas!!

We weren’t sure if people are allowed to sit in this chair, but there was no sign saying not to and no one was around to scold us, so…

Ugh, there should be a mold of Donghae’s face. He is seriously so beautiful and I should know – I stood about ten feet from him on a sidewalk in NYC last year! I honestly almost dropped to the ground in front of him, those strong visuals hit my body like a handful of muscle relaxers.

Henry texted me after an hour and was like, “…are you guys still in there?” Uh, yes. Getting our money’s worth!

NCT!!

Eventually, we made it to the end of the museum which, as I mentioned earlier, spit us out right into the madhouse that is the SM Cafe and Gift Shop. Hooooo boy, every fucking kpop-loving foreigner was up in that piece and there was Henry, standing alone, looking absolutely frayed and violated. It was pretty hilarious. It took us a good 30 minutes to get our pictures paid for and printed, and then Chooch wanted and EXO tumbler which required us to stand in the long cafe line, but that at least went pretty quickly.

We were really reaching the hunger boiler point by now, and planned on going to Plant, a vegan joint in Itaewon, but I was like, “WAITTTTTT, STARFIELD!!”

I was not going to be that close, twice in two visits, without finally seeing this incredible library-cum-art installation!

And it was worth it. Even if it meant braving the Saturday afternoon mall crowds in order to experience it. And wow, let me tell you—that mall was PACKED. Mall culture is alive and well in Seoul!

The amazing thing is that people really do grab a book and read here.

Then after that, I stalled my travel cohorts one more time so that I could get a quick video of the area and they wanted to kill me, but I thought that commercial playing on the giant screen was cute OK?!

Luckily, Itaewon is only a few stops away from Coex, so we got to Plant in no time and since it was only about 4:30 at this point, we managed to beat the dinner rush and got seated right away. First of all, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who goes to Seoul and eats vegan food?!” but look: their veg scene has really been heating up over the last several years, and I have heard a lot of rave reviews about Plant, from vegans and carnivores alike.

Because it’s in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul known for its large population of expats, I assumed that this place was started by one of those aforementioned expats; turns out, the owner was born in Busan, but has lived everywhere from the Ivory Coast to the US, before moving back to Korea in 2006. One of the other chefs is an American Korean, but the staff we saw that day was comprised entirely of expats – our waitress was Australian, for instance. Everyone in there was speaking English, and the whole vibe and aesthetic also reminded me so much of home that I almost forgot I was in Korea! It was pretty weird.

Henry treated himself after enduring 2 hours alone in SMTown haha.

Shit you guys, Chooch and I both had the chili burger and I’m not lying — it may have been the best homemade veggie burger of my life. The bun was incredible, the fries were so satisfying, the whole place was just so homey — I could definitely see myself easing into a Plant regular if I lived in Seoul.

(God, why don’t I live in Seoul!?!?)

Even Henry was like, “I’m comfortable enough in my meathood to admit that this is a delicious non-meat meal.”

Capped off the night with some Hongdae strolling while Chooch hung back in the room because he decided that waking up from his evening nap was not an option.

I made Henry go to his least favorite Korean store of all time, Chuu, but I sadly didn’t see anything I was interested in buying! That was a bummer, because last year I was panicked about the whole free-size thing and OMG what if nothing fit me, but then I bought a shirt from Chuu last winter and it was so comfortable and flattering, so I couldn’t wait to go back in person and buy clothes. But nothing caught my eye!

Then we had a late night convenience store run before heading back to the room and I finally got a real life Idol Sandwich! This one was from 7-Eleven I think, and it was the seasonal blueberry variety. It was SO FUCKING DELICIOUS. There is something about the bouncy, chewy bread that they use in Korea that really makes sandwiches POP. Would I go to the CoGo’s down the street from my house and buy a sandwich? FUCK NO. Would I confidently eat a sandwich from pretty much any convenience store in Korea? FUCK YEAH BRING IT. Their convenience stores are so superior to ours in America.

For instance, if something is out of date, the cashier won’t be able to ring it up! That happened to us! I couldn’t believe it.

Anyway, this concludes the three-part summary of our third day in Korea. It was definitely the first REALLY GOOD, everything feels normal again, day that we had since arriving and I was so relieved. My eye was nearly healed, the jetlag fog had finally evaporated, I felt fully functioning and oriented – from here on every day was better than the last. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish recapping it before winter, haha.

Aug 212019
 

So in my last post I was getting all high and mighty about how I love exploring old historical stuff but now I’m gonna be all contrary and tell you that one of my favorite things about Seoul is their weird, eclectic collection of stores masquerading as modern art installations.

One of the best areas for these quirky (and pricey) boutiques is Sinsa-dong, home of the famed Garosu-gil which is a tree-lined street full of designer $$$$ stores and fancy cafes. So like, Henry’s hell.

This is also near Gangnam, which is the majorly high-class part of Seoul, the subject of Psy’s hit crossover pop song “Gangnam Style,” and Plastic Surgery Town. Basically, we knew we were in Sinsa-dong when we got off the subway and were assayed by giant plastic surgery ads all over the station. People take “medical vacations” to Seoul, specifically to get plastic surgery and the whole time we were there, I kept examining my aging face in the mirror and musing, “Maybe I should get some work down while we’re here” and Henry’s frown (and eyeball dollar signs) pushed me onto my ass.

…which COULD ALSO USE SOME WORK.

You can maybe see why this isn’t Mr. Plain Wal-Mart T-Shirt’s ideal spot to spend a Saturday.

Or any day.

But you really can’t go to Seoul without experiencing this area…and nearly get run over by BMWs and Porches with tinted windows along the narrow side streets. (Henry’s like, “Yeah you can.”) And I was insistent that we make it out there because the Garosu-girl Gentle Monster was currently running a pop-up cafe in collaboration with Fendi! I saw pictures on Instagram and was naturally hypnotized by the aesthetics.

Something that Henry is immune to.

On the walk there, we passed this totally cool Baskin Robbins which really rubbed the salt in the wound of the recent horrible experience I had in an AMERICAN Baskin Robbins.

Ice cream ATM, you guys. I’m looking into having one of these installed in our office at the Law Firm.

No, we didn’t get anything! We knew that we were going to be scarfing down 1000s of calories at the Gentle Monster cafe in a few minutes, so we abstained from acting like stereotypical ‘mericans just let loose in the cookie aisle of Walmart.

Even the classy Sinsa area of Seoul has these stupid claw machine arcades, ughhh. I hate them because they put Chooch in such a shitty mood! And just as expected, he was a little jerk for about an hour after not winning anything. I fear that this is the gateway to the gambling and I’m so nervous for his future.

Luckily, Gentle Monster was right around the corner and we arrived just as the cafe was opening. There was already a small group of people waiting, and I was glad that we got there early because I have heard that some of the items sell out quickly and it often is too crowded to even get a seat.

I really didn’t want to sit outside and eat melty desserts, thanks.

Chooch got the first Fendi popsicle of the day! Hilariously,  this is the only Fendi we can comfortably afford, so hopefully Chooch savored every last lick.

(He certainly didn’t let the rest of us taste it.)

His super-verbose review was that it was “good.”

The dessert display inside was gorgeous, and also kind of like a game of “which one is edible?”

We chose the set of three banana which were surprisingly soft – we were all expecting more of a hardened candy-coating, or maybe something akin to fondant, but it was a soft icing-like consistency and each was filled with a different type of mousse. They were extremely decadent and fulfilling. I wish I could have them with coffee everyday.

The moss-looking tree stump was actually a pistachio cake topped with an almond cookie and it was also WORTH IT. And we all fought over the last bits like starving birds who found a tin of severed toes in a junkyard during the apocalypse.

We got to sit in the best room of the cafe since we got there early!

Chooch was pissed because we didn’t let him have the entire cookie off the cake and I pointed out that he had just had a popsicle so then I was accused of fat-shaming him and that really set the tone but deep down I knew he was still surly about that fucking claw machine. But then he was happy because he took this tilted picture of me and I actually liked it and I am super hard to please with pictures.

My iced Americano didn’t taste any better in a cup with Fendi scrawled across it but it was still refreshing.

The main Gentle Monster showroom across the street didn’t open until noon so we went shopping at Aland. I LOVE Aland. They sell CosRX products there and I really like CosRX facial cleansers so I got one of those and also discovered the Korean clothing line Dear Stalker which I fell in love with immediately and bought one shirt even though I wanted them all.

Chooch was being a pissy brat and actually disappeared to be alone with his brooding sulkiness but then we found him (it was one of those, “Oh shit, does anyone know where Chooch is?” moments) and showed him the Wiggle Wiggle section–Wiggle Wiggle is another Korean brand and they have some of the best phone cases. One of my most recent phone cases is actually from Wiggle Wiggle, so Chooch was like, “OH GREAT MOM IS PROBABLY GOING TO GET ANOTHER PHONE CASE BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS FOR HER” and yeah he’s right because this was MY BIRTHDAY TRIP but anyway, I was nice and said that he could get a phone case and he was excited because they had a Corgi one so he got to add another thing to his Corgi collection that has everything but a real Corgi in it.

Admiring his new case while adjusting his attitude.

Henry’s lucky that he was off “looking for a garbage can” while also conveniently being the keeper of all of the money, because I would have thrown down some major ₩₩₩₩₩₩ at Stretch Angels. Their bags are so appealing to me! And their store gave me MUCH interior decorating inspo.

Henry really missed out on this one, that’s for sure.

But no worries, because Gentle Monster was open and ready to accept Henry’s sneers and grimaces!

I kept trying to get Henry to buy new frames but he was all, “THEN I WILL HAVE TO PAY A LOT OF MONEY FOR LENSES” and I was like, “Yes, but you will have GENTLE MONSTER frames, so…”

I thought for a second that I almost had him swayed when we found some cool black frames, but then he backed out.

And Chooch was mad because still, a year later, we wouldn’t buy him a pair of sunglasses.

One of the salespeople saw him trying to figure out how to put on this one pair, which is always a questionable thing when you have to figure out how to put on a pair of sunglasses, so she came over and happily demonstrated for him. Then she was like, “Here, you try” and this is why I love Gentle Monster – for as artsy and peacocky as their glasses are, the people who work there (and we have been to like 5 of them) are so kind and helpful! They don’t breathe down your back, they don’t try to upsell, they don’t tell you not to touch or take pictures—they encourage it! It’s just as much of a multi-media, hands-on art experience as it is a shopping trip.

This video was actually from our last day in Seoul, when we went to the Gentle Monster in Hongdae and Chooch was like, “Whoa, look at me, knowing how to open these complicated shades.”

 

Next up was Dr. Jart, a Korean skincare brand that also makes browsing an interactive, stimulating experience.

The outside was themed like an olympic swimming pool, complete with misters which didn’t really help on this sweltering 90 degree day, but thanks for trying, Dr. Jart!

The upper level was themed after Henry’s place of employment. Just kidding, but he does work in the warehouse of a beverage company so this definitely made him feel like home, I think. Complimentary water bottles of varying temperatures were offered and there was a young couple chilling off to the side, on a seat made of water pallets. So strange, yet cool and I wasn’t exactly sure why I was excited about this other than the fact than I was in Korea and everything there makes me happy, even a room decorated with hundreds of water bottles.

Behind those curtains were several sinks where you could wash your hands using this lovely citrus hand wash, which Chooch and I immediately imprinted on. Henry was like, “Oh for god’s sake, fine” and washed his hands too and agreed that it was a very nice cleansing experience and I’ll tell you what, Dr. Jart — great fucking marketing. Because even though we had already perused the actual shop portion of the three-level experience, we marched our asses right back down the steps and bought some of that citrus shit. We actually opted for the hand cream and Chooch also got a lip treatment because he always gets chapped lips in the winter, so…way to think ahead. And the salesgirl threw in a TON of samples for me too and I was stoked because one of the samples was the BB cream, which I love.

Also, props to Dr. Jart for being one of the only skin care shops where you can shop peacefully without a shadow. Sometimes I will leave a shop even though I originally planned on buying something, because the salespeople make me feel so pressured and self-conscious! The two people working at Dr. Jart that day just stayed behind the counter, but they did smile and say hello, so it wasn’t like a frigid, uncomfortable experience. It’s all about balance, salespeople!

This concludes the shopping portion of our Saturday in Sinsa. Next up: SMTown and Plant!