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.


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!

Aug 182019

By the third full day in Korea, my eye was feeling better (still only wore contact though per the advice of Dr. Henry who apparently earned his optometry degree by mailing in $1 to an address on the back of a matchbook) and the jetlag fog had mostly dissipated, so this was the first full day where I felt like myself and I had to stop myself from running through the subway station, screaming, “ERIN’S BACK, BITCHES!”

Plus, Chooch and I were being rowdy in the hotel hallway that morning so Henry hissed, “shut the fuck up” but he did so under his breath because he’s afraid of us.

Yes, things were definitely feeling normal! We commemorated the start of a great day by taking an #OOTD selfie in a subway station mirror, a la Joan Kim.

Anyway, this was us on our way to this cool urban walkway called Seoullo 7017. It’s a former highway overpass that was recently repurposed into a skywalk, full of plants and brightly-painted pianos, with plenty of seating which likely makes it a great spot to escape the daily office grind.

Chooch and I adopted this dumb pose for nearly every picture and it made us crack up but Henry was just like, “You guys look dumb.”

We got to the walkway pretty early on Saturday morning, so the streets were still relatively quiet. If there’s one thing about Seoul, it’s that everything stays open extremely late, but nothing opens early, man. Not even cafes.

Also? THIS IS THE FIRST BLUE SKY OF THE TRIP! I was like, “Something looks diffe—-OMG THE SKY IS BLUE! THE SKY IS FUCKING BLUE!” From this day on, the weather would be mostly clear, with sporadic showers here and there so I was relieved. I really thought a fucking monsoon was going to come in and flood out our vacation.

Henry was trying to enjoy all the pretty plants but Chooch and I were giddy AF and kept making Cheetah Girl jokes which never sits well with Henry, and then there would be the occasional person passing by on a morning walk, and they would look at us like we had escaped a mental institution.

ALWAYS stop & smell the Korean flowers, guys.

You can see how the rain clouds were still chilling in the background; they stuck around just long enough to make us wonder if we were about to regret not bringing our umbrellas but it never did rain that day, just once earlier in the morning, before we even left the room.

That glass building to the left of the green-dome is Seoul Station, a major subway station but also the KTX and AREX train terminals. There’s a Lotte Mart there, Lotte Outlets, plus a ton of restaurants, cafes, and other shops. We spent a shit-ton of time there last year, spinning around in circles, being thoroughly lost, but Henry and Chooch are like pub-trans pros at this point and we just breezed right through every time we had to go there on this trip. It was cool seeing it from this perspective though, considering we’re always inside and underneath it.

Lush urban vegetation! Pittsburgh has Point Park downtown, but I do wish there were more green areas to visit while I’m on my lunch break walks. Pavement-pounding gets pretty old after a while.

Meanwhile, Henry took a timelapse of traffic on the other side of one of the railings and I don’t know it was so funny to us, but it was and Henry was like, “YOU KNOW WHAT, GO FUCK YOURSELVES.”

Then, I saw in the near distance one of the numerous “Gates” around Seoul, so I was like, “CAN WE WALK THERE” and Henry was like, “LET ME LOOK AT MY MAP” and then somehow, we stumbled upon one of the the secret alley entrances to Namdaemun Market and I was SO CONFUSED, because I am directionally challenged and even here at home, it’s fucking WILD to me when I look at a map and realize where certain neighborhoods are in relation to Pittsburgh because I can’t grasp the concept of NORTH EAST SOUTH WEST. One time recently, Nate was asking me which direction we were flying out of the US to Korea, and I had to stand next to him so we were facing the same direction so that I could wave a hand in front of us and say, “OK so if this *wipes air with hand*is America, we fly out this way *points to the left*.”

“Oh OK, so….west,” Nate said in his best effort to eradicate any ounce of condescension from his tone.

In most US cities, you’d generally want to avoid alleys of any kind, but in Korea, this is where you can find hidden gems, like tucked-away mandu guk (dumpling soup) restaurants or a food stall housing a breakfast sandwich-slinging ahjumma.

Chooch got an egg & cheese toast and as much as I wanted one too, I held off because I knew more options awaited.

Namdaemun is also a good place to get some cheap threads & good Korean donuts, yo. I wish Pittsburgh alleys had less piss and the possibility of rape, more egg toast and knock-off designer clothes stands.

But first we had to go and find that gate so we cut through the main roads of Namdaemun to get there. (Again, mindblown that we were where we were. I should study a map more often, I think.)

But FIRST first Henry had to embarrass us at 7-Eleven in front of the cute cashier because we kept taking our stuff up to pay and Henry would be like ME NOT READY, ROARRRRR and we would have to take our stuff off the counter but then finally Henry put his shit on the counter so we were like ok cool it’s time to pay and we put our stuffs down too (they sell SM idol group jellies there so I got EXO and NCT127 for Veronica!) but then Henry just kept standing there looking at his phone and Chooch and I were like tugging on our collars, asking each other with our eyes, “What is he doing???” And the cashier kept looking at us and we were all smiling at each other nervously, then finally Henry thrust his phone at the young man and barked DO YOU HAVE THIS and apparently it was a picture of Ibuprofen and the guy was like I don’t know what that is and so Henry was like FOR A HEADACHE?! and the guy was like OH! Here, this will work and gave Henry a box of something else but it ended up being children’s Tylenol and THAT IS NOT GOING TO WORK, Henry growled to us outside of the store as Chooch and I were saying in tandem, “you are so embarrassing!” Ugh.

We reached Sungnyemun Gate, which was free to explore. It’s billed as the first National Treasure, so how could we not give it some tourist love? This is one of the eight gates of the Fortress Wall that once surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. It was built in 1396!

1396!! It’s super hard to wrap my head around things like this. It was rebuilt in 1447, survived some damage from the Korean war which required repairs, before burning to the ground by arson in 2008. It was rebuilt in 2013 — as of this time, it was the most expensive restoration project South Korea has ever seen. There are still some smoke-stained stones.

I love resting my eyeballs on sights like these and imaging what it must have been like when it was in use.

You just, you know, don’t see things like this in Pittsburgh and gives you a brand new perspective on a life and time where a city needed to be walled-inn to protect itself. And I love that these historical bad boys are just right smack in the middle of modern, high-tech Seoul.

The colors on that ceiling though!

Imagining trying to break down that door. Maybe my ex-neighbor “Ned” the Kingpin should have replaced his door with one like this,

Honestly, you walk through the doors of the gate and you’re back in the 21st century.

Thoroughly history-fed, it was time to revisit Namdaemun for some additional feeding (this time of the mandu variety) before leaving behind all the palaces and gates for super-new Seoul a/k/a Gangnam. Stay tuned, or turn the channel if you’ve had enough of Korea; break my heart – it’s fine!

Aug 172019

Our plan after a long day in Incheon was to go back to the room, rest a bit, look up a spell to cure my eye, procure a virgin and a rib from a centaur to complete said spell, and then head on out to Myeongdong for some street food and night shopping.

I LOVE Myeongdong! It’s street after street of beauty shops and boutiques and kpop merch and loud music and laughter and street food, and and and…it’s just a must-visit on any trip to Seoul. If you’re looking to just shop, then probably stick with going there during the day. But I like being there at night because it’s more of a party, night-market atmosphere and not as many food carts are out during the day.

And really, isn’t it all about the food?!

I didn’t think twice about throwing down some Won on a gyeran bbang (egg bread). This little loaf looks like it would be savory, but it is surprisingly sweet, the kind of sweetness you’d get from French toast, with a delicious egg baked right into the center, and topped with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.


These things are so good.

Maybe the new Pie Party should be Korean Street Food Fest.

Henry doesn’t hate Myeongdong or anything, but he does get nervous because people will stand outside of various skincare shops, luring potential customers inside with the prospect of free sheet masks or other assorted “1+1” deals. And I’m a sucker. I’ll go in and look at the lip gloss and next thing I know, I’m walking out with $100 worth of premium snail serum for my face and this is not an exaggeration, this actually happened last year at The Saem in Busan. BUT THE LADY WAS SO CONVINCING and that shit actually was amazing on my skin, I’m not even going to lie. I still have some left because it was so expensive that I use it so sparingly.

But I did good on this night! I avoided all those shops and we just focused on socks (there are sooooo many sock shops in Korea but especially Myeongdong and they are fucking CUTE AND WELL-MADE – most shops have 11 for $10 deals. Chooch and I stocked the fuck up…or should I say, SOCKED the fuck up?


They also have kid socks so we were nice and got some for Calvin too.

One of my early observations from this trip is that, in spite of what all the Kpop news articles and social media would have us believe, Bigbang doesn’t seem to have actually been canceled over there. I still heard a good bit of it being played in shops and there was still just as much Bigbang merch as any other group, even Seungri specifically. So I just don’t know. Is it propaganda, do the average Koreans condemn Seungri for alleged crimes he hasn’t actually been tried for? Because if I wanted to buy a pair of Seungri socks, or a Seungri keychain, I could have easily done so at a variety of shops. So that was reassuring!

I also thought it was cool how familiar it felt being back in Myeongdong. How did Seoul so quickly start to feel like my second home!? It really must be hard-packed into my heart.

Before the trip, I was telling my co-worker Margie that we were staying in my favorite neighborhood of Hongdae and she was like, “How do you know all the different neighborhoods?” and I was like, “BECAUSE THIS IS MY LIFE, MARGIE.” But honestly, even before our first trip there, I had spent a year and a half watching vlog after vlog on YouTube of people living in Seoul and you just start to understand and recognize different areas, just like you would in your own city.

One of my favorite stores is Stylenanda, even though I never buy anything there. They sell makeup and clothes, but their stores are SO PRETTY. The one in Myeongdong specifically is themed as a hotel, and it’s like 6 floors of makeup, clothing, accessories, and a cafe themed as a rooftop pool.

Henry hates it there.

This tub is iconic.

I love shops like this because they make Henry uncomfortable and it’s so much fun for me to force him to pose for pretty princess pictures.

This bed and table are suspended over the entryway (lobby) of the store. It makes me nervous.

Stylenanda Pink Cafe.

Also in Myeongdong is an accessories boutique called My Poetry. It’s a Korean brand with multiple locations around the country, but it’s so intimately-themed that you would think it was an independent shop. And the earrings! They are so beautiful that I poured one out in an alley later that night for my closed-up holes. I really need to get my ears repierced and this shop maybe was the boot in the ass that I needed.

I did get a ring for myself there but holy shit I was really coveting some of those delicate earrings.

Also, I love that this brand’s tagline is “I still hide you in my poetry.”

Chooch got one of these s’mores-esque things to cap off the night. It had a chunk of ice cream in the middle and he of course did not let us try it.

On the subway back to Hongdae, I sat in between Chooch and some sleeping, possibly-drunk, older man who kept getting dangerously close to slumping over on me. The guy on the other side of him kept shouldering him back upright, but then at one of the subway stops, Sleeping Guy had enough momentum to fall all the way into my side. So then it was basically me and the guy on the other side volleying Sleeping Guy back and forth like a bizarre game of Subway Ping Pong, until I finally got up and stood because it was too much responsibility for me to bear.

Ugh, I miss the subway so much. :( And Myeongdong. And gyeran bbang. And sock-shopping. And Korea all around.

Aug 152019

I didn’t know about Wolmi Island during our first visit to Korea, or I would have dragged my fam there in an instant! It’s basically a BOARDWALK, you guys. WITH RIDES. It’s also a seafood lover’s Mecca, if that matters to you.

The only way to reach Wolmi from Chinatown in Incheon was either to walk (which Henry said would only be “like 20 minutes”), take a taxi, or take a bus. Now for some reason, I am still terrified of public buses. I don’t know why! Ok I do know why–it’s because I’m always worried my transit card won’t work when I tap it and unlike on the subway, you’re face to face with the bus driver and everyone on the bus is getting all huffy and surly because you’re holding everything up.

I write this like it’s from personal experience and it is NOT. I have only ridden the bus in Pittsburgh once in my whole life and that was in 1998 waaaay before the days of transit cards, and the times we rode a bus last year in Busan, we had zero problemo.

So Henry did his thing, found out which bus would take us there (um, nearly all of them) and we waited at the stop right across from Chinatown, then got on the EMPTY BUS with some old man and that was it! Success!

Also, after riding there on a bus, I can now tell you that it would have been one fucking bitch of a walk there through mostly industrial areas, so…dodged that bullet.

The bus ride was only about 10 minutes and not scary at all. It is still highly unlikely that I will ever willingly board a PAT bus in Pittsburgh though.

So here’s a nugget of history about Wolmi Island, which I only recently learned: “On September 10, 1950, the U.S. Army began five days of bombing Wolmido Island, which contained North Korean Army soldiers. Several hundred civilians were killed in the dropping of 93 napalm bombs. The battle was inspiration for the North Korean Propaganda Film Wolmi Island produced in 1982.”

Yikes. Thinking about that, and knowing I walked all over this place is goosebump-inducing.

And yet, now it’s a big tourist spot full of restaurants, bars, and amusement parks!

It had stopped raining by the time we made it to Wolmi, but the gray skies kept most people away. Wolmi Theme Park was open, and the ride operators were busily squeegee’ing the rides of puddles.

But were the only people strolling around, so it gave it a mildly sinister feel. Later though, some people were riding the pirate ship and hearing their screams made it less creepy, somehow.

The famous Tagada! Or, also known as Disco Pang Pang. So this ride is popular in various Asian countries but it’s not something you would ever see in the States, what with, you know, safety regulations and whatnot. But the ride operator essentially tries to catapult the riders off the ride. And there are no seatbelts or anything! So you have to grab on to the rails with all your might and give it to God, I guess.

(No one actually gets flung off but I have seen videos of people sliding around all over the place!)

Taemin and Key from SHINee were actually on  this ride during an episode of “We Got Married”! It’s the very beginning of the video, so just watch it:

I mean…I was attacked by our family’s pet rabbit Rudy when I was 15 so just glancing at this ride was enough for me.

Across from the entrance to Wolmi Theme Park is the Wolmido Lighthouse.

Yellow Sea.

It didn’t even feel like we were in Korea while we were here. It could have been some small town on the Jersey Shore, to be honest. It was nice to have a slower pace and hear all the seagulls squawking as people fed them squid snacks. Chooch and I got drinks from a little cafe run by the most adorable and pleasant older couple (Chooch was on a major bubble tea spree, and I mostly opted for iced Americanos everywhere we went).

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“Fun time,” as Chooch would call it.

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We stumbled upon another little park that had not one but THREE pirate ships. They love their pirate ships in Korea!

I can definitely imagine this being a major hotspot during nicer days and it probably is a madhouse during summer nights.

Before we headed back to Seoul, I was adamant that we ride the ferris wheel, which cost us like $18 I think but it was worth it not because yay, family time, but because TAEMIN RODE THIS FERRIS WHEEL.

Also, Henry smiled once.

Chooch was tired of hearing me complain about my eye woes.

Eye drama and intermittent rain showers aside, this day trip was actually pretty great. However, the highlight for me when we were sitting on the subway on the way back to Seoul and Chooch created an Instagram account for Cheetah Girl – the imaginary stripper girlfriend we invented for Henry – and I was fucking laughing so hard that I thought my bum eye was going to shoot out, and Henry was like, “WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING” so Cheetah Girl sent him a friend request BUT HE DENIED IT.

Aug 142019

Hello. This is still the second day. My recaps are tedious and ridiculous.

Every time I would start to get sad that it was raining, I would remind myself that it was STILL BETTER THAN BEING IN PITTSBURGH. Honestly, when I started planning this trip, I knew it was Korea’s rain season but I was adamant on being here for my birthday – who knew my birthday was in Asia’s monsoon season? Coincidentally, all the rain really helped with the air quality and there were no yellow dust advisories the whole time we were there, as opposed to our last visit in spring when everyone was wearing medical masks the whole time.

Give and take, I guess.

Anyway, it was fine that it started to rain because we were ready to get Our jjajangmyeon on anyway. I guess now is where I tell you that jjajangmyeon is a noodle dish with a really thick and rich black bean sauce. It’s served with danmuji (pickled yellow radish) and lemme tell you what, it is such a satisfying dish.

Interestingly, it’s a Koreanized version of a Chinese dish, much like how America has its own versions of Chinese food that is most likely not served in China. Incheon’s Chinatown is allegedly the birthplace of this dish (there’s even a museum there for it) so naturally, this is what we had to have for lunch!

There are numerous places that serve this, clearly, but we chose a place that one of our favorite Korean YouTubers recommended, and it has the “a k-drama was filmed here” claim to fame. When we walked in, there were several tables occupied by old men, which is always a good sign.

I think our waitress freaking hated us though. She just gave off “trespassers!” vibes even though this was like a major tourist area.

But we still happily ate our jjajangmyeon. (Chooch did too even though he was being a bitch about it when we were looking at the menu—he and I both have massive food/mood swings.)

Actually, we ate so happily that I failed to even take a picture of the jjajangmyeon after all this hype about the jjajangmyeon but honestly, it’s not a very attractive dish. It’s literally a bowl of noodles with a wet crowd of dark gravy-like gloop.

Fun fact: there is a holiday in Korea called Black Day where single people gather to eat jjajangmyeon in an effort to dull the pain of not having a Valentine, I guess.

I got this picture from the Internet but you can just pretend like it was my bowl before I bibim’d that shit up into a chunky nest of black bean ooze.

(OMG as I’m writing this a video about kimchi jjigae is playing on my TV in the background and I just realized that I never ate any of that this time around and it’s one of my favorite Korean dishes, ugh guess I have to GO BACK AGAIN.)

Our lunch was so delicious but I definitely had regertz afterward because there was this one restaurant we walked by earlier, and also after lunch, where an older woman was standing in the doorway cheerfully saying hello to passersby in an attempt to lure them inside and I wished so deeply that we had chosen her noodle house instead.

Le sigh.

Look at the little chairs on the windowsill!

We strolled around some other areas of Chinatown after lunch. I ended up not gaining any weight the entire time we were away even though I ate so much and it’s definitely because we did so much walking. It’s the best way to digest, you guys.

I don’t know if it really is or not.

I was scared walking up these steps because they were so wet and shiny.

But there was a reward at the top! Look at how beautiful that is. There were steps on the other side of that Chinese gate, which led us into a forest/park-type area which also was home to a Korea-US Centennial Monument, so that was pretty cool.

There was also a General MacArthur statue, which Henry correctly guessed from many yards away because he knows more history stuffs than me but also he probably saw this on the map that we were looking at next to the entrance of Chinatown.

Chooch and that damn umbrella that I had to carry through four airports on the way home, ugh.

That MacArthur guy. Maybe I should look him up sometime.


Oh shit you guys, we got some Mooncakes from this vendor that I read can have lines up to 90 minutes long so it was another reminder to thank the rain for keeping away the crowds. Mine had a green tea filling, Chooch’s was super-messy chocolate, and of course Henry got red bean. These were way better than the buns we had earlier that day, and also fresher. Plus, the vendor was so much nicer and personable and happy to sell us his Mooncakes.

I dunno, these alone might have been worth the excursion away from Seoul!

Before we could say goodbye to Chinatown, Chooch had to waste more of our precious coins in the claw machine arcade.

I think that I will definitely visit C-town again if I ever return to Korea. There are so many different things to eat there and my stomach is just not as big as it feels when I’m watching food vlogs.

Before we left Incheon, we had more place to go: Wolmi Island. SEE YOU IN THE NEXT POST!

Aug 132019

Incheon is a city about an hour west of Seoul, and also the location of the international airport. But it’s also home to Korea’s largest (and only official) Chinatown. Why would you want to go to a Chinatown in Korea, you may be asking if you’re even reading this but you probably aren’t whoever YOU ARE.

Anyway, I wanted to go specifically because I heard through the grapevine also known as YouTube that this is like the premiere place to get ye a bowl of that good-good jjajangmyeon.

WHAT IS JJAJANGMYEON you might be asking and look maybe it’s time that you utilize that Siri or Google bullshit. And this is where Henry reminds me that I have chased all my blog readers away with  my poor attitude, so fine I’ll tell you what jjajangmyeon is….in another post. Because this post is about killing time before the jjajangmyeon.

It took about 2 hours to reach Incheon’s Chinatown by subway (several transfers were necessary and then there was that whole bit where Henry left me on a train platform) but overall, it was relatively easy to figure out how to get there (and by that I mean I let Henry and Chooch look at the maps and I followed them blindly with outstretched hands while wobbling to and fro with big dumb glasses on my big dumb face).

The gate is pretty much right outside the station (which I also believe was the last stop): so um, you really can’t miss it. Even I could see it!

The downside to this excursion was that it was raining off and on. Plus, we had arrived just a bit too early so nothing was really open yet, but we did find a nice little garden area to take refuge and get our bearings.

You can tell even from far away that my eye was jacked!

A tour group arrived as we were chilling here and at the same time, it stopped raining. Suddenly, everything came to life in Chinatown!

It was so gloomy all day, but I liked the vibe. It matched my eye-pain-inducing CLOUD ABOVE MY HEAD.

We did some lunch pre-gaming by swiping some Hwadok Mandu. The vendor seemed impressed when I ordered mine and said “hobak” instead of “pumpkin.” I KNOW MY FOOD WORDS, OK. Henry got red bean and I already forget which one Chooch got. Apparently, the lines for this vendor get quite long so I was no longer that mad about that rain. I expect things to be crowded when I’m traveling, but we had this whole little town almost entirely to ourselves and it was bizarre yet wonderful. Especially when we got to Fairytale Village!

If there is one thing Korea loves, it’s murals and cartoon kitsch. There was no rhyme or reason for this section of Chinatown, and it actually felt pretty out of place, but goddamn if we didn’t peruse every last street and alley and take those photo spots up on their offers!

At first, Chooch was kind of like, “This is dumb…” but then he kept finding random dog murals.

The freshly wetted paths and gray skies added an extra layer of creepiness! Like some unsettling Slovakian horror fantasy. At times, you could almost forget that you were even in Korea. I

Just, you know, straddling a giant Pinocchio in Chinatown, nothing to see here.

Now I kind of wish this was in my living room. I’ve been looking for years for an adequate couch-substitute and this might actually replace my strong desire for a vintage bumper car TV-watching vessel. Just put some throw pillows down on his legs and get cozy, friends!

I’m not sure Henry was very enchanted by this.

Brookline needs to jazz up the town with some whimsical fiberglass tree things. I’ll mention it at the next town hall.

Well, then Chooch found this Bambi thing and freaked out. I don’t know what it is with him and Bambi, but Korea is the perfect place for him because Bambi just happens to pop up everywhere?!

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I wish a truck selling soondubu stopped on MY street.

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All over Korea, you will see trucks peddling food (like eggs and produce) while announcing their wares in a trance-like cadence over a megaphone. This particular guy was vending tofu.

All those lifestyle Instagrammers would have a field day here with ALL THE WALLS OMG. SUCH CONTENT.

I allowed photos even though I was wearing my hideous glasses.

Even Korea’s sewer grate things are excelsior.

More Bambi, inexplicably.

동화마을 = Fairytale Village (Dong-hwa maeul)

I guess I can’t hate on Chooch’s Bambi fascination too hard because I am definitely into Alice in Wonderland. I was excited when we came across this but it turns out it was just a trick eye museum and we did one of those last year in Insadong.

And you know what they say about trick eye museums: if you’ve been to one…why? you’ve been to ’em all.


So many possible captions here.

Anyway, that was the first part of our visit to Incheon’s Chinatown. Oh! We also went to a little sock shop because Chooch and I are obsessed with Korean socks (THEY ARE FUCKING CUTE AND CHEAP AND ACTUALLY GOOD QUALITY). When Henry was paying, he noticed some old-ass cellphone on the counter and thought it belonged to the lady who had been in line in front of him so he grabbed it and called after her but the cashier was like “yo bro that’s a pop-socket display, put it down!” except he said that in Korean and Chooch and I were like, to each other, “omg he is so embarrassing.” That was the catchphrase of this trip, definitely.

Anyway, the next part will be about how we finally got our jjajangmyeon which will include an explanation of said jjajangmyeon in case you haven’t already googled that shit.

Aug 112019

This is waaaaay more dramatic-sounding that it really was! You know how I do.

But my eye, you guys. My eyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I thought I would be OK if we went back to the room so I could take my contact out, and then carry on with business.

I think this was in the City Hall subway station. All I remember is that it was the exit right next to some convenience store where Henry bought a cord for the wifi thingie. So, whatever subway station that is.

Weird family portrait in this mirror-y art installation thing.

Not even an eyeball hanging out of its socket could stop me from taking a picture of the adult shop by our guest house, which we pointed and snickered at EVERY SINGLE TIME and yelled, “IT’S HENRY’S STORE!” This was second only to a lingerie store elsewhere in Hongdae called Sexy Cookie, which I only just realized Friday on our walk home from Summer Breakfast Club that I never took a picture of it!! I tried one night to get Henry to stand in front of it for a picture after he was mouthing off about how things like this didn’t make him feel ashamed or bothered, yet he was super quick to snuff out any impending photo ops, so…

You tell me.

Went back to the room and peeled the contact off my eye.


I’m fucking kidding.

It felt goddamn awful, like several layers of my eyeball slipped off with the contact like fucking onion skin.

Holy fuck.

Now I was at the point where my eyelid was like, “Hey, I’m just gonna stay shut for the next 72 hours, cash me outside if you disagree.” But I kept fighting to keep it open and my eye actually looked like it was bleeding and then the whole fucking lid and area around it turned swollen, so I had to walk around THE FUCKING COOLEST AREA OF SEOUL with my hair flung over my right eye like a follicular curtain of shame. And it would sporadically well up with tears because, as Dr. Henry liked to remind me 87 times during this chapter of my life, “EYES ARE SELF-CLEANING.”

So then my other eye wanted to join the watering party and then it was also raining so my face was all oily with humidity and basically, I wasn’t bringing any Korean boys back with me at this juncture, is all I’m saying. Unless I could find some strange subgroup on the dark Internet of Korean men who like white American girls that look like freshly-punched glazed Easter hams. Then, swipe right boys!

Plus, I was shambling around with only one contact in, so my balance and depth perception were fragile.

Thank god this Taeyong birthday tribute was so gigantic or I might have missed it.

(It was painted over by the following week, in preparation for the next idol shrine to go up.)

It started pouring right when we were looking for a pizza place. (Chooch’s choice—I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it’s easier to just let him have his way every now and then so that we’re all happy and it’s not, apparently, the Erin Show even though I AM THE REASON WE WERE EVEN THERE!)

My only requirement was that I wanted it to be a place that wasn’t super crowded so that people wouldn’t have to stare at the Mongoloid American. I considered getting an eye patch and pretending like I was healing from plastic surgery, which, in Seoul, no one would even think twice about.

We found a small little walk-up called Monster Pizza right by our room and it was perfect. We sat at a table outside and it was getting dark so my eye was less noticeable maybe.

We went back to the room to relax for a bit and I tried on my new pajamas that I bought in Hongdae after seeing this pattern EVERYWHERE, even in the shops in the subway stations. I was nervous because most shops like that are one-size (or free-size) which made me so nervous last time  to the point where I panicked and refused to buy anything, but this time, I took the (half) blind leap and bought it. AND IT FIT, WOO!!! So then I was just like, “BUY ALL THE SHIRTS!!” after that.

I wanted to see the Han River later that night so we had to take the subway to Yeouido and I thought Henry knew what he was doing but he had us walking for-fucking-ever on some trail which wasn’t actually all that bad because my eye was being a fucker still and it was nice to not have to be around crowds. Nearly ever person we passed on the trail was an old person which I thought was awesome – old people in Korea are so into fitness!  They’re an inspiration.

We saw this random BTS thing next a yacht club. I guess you’re supposed to write a letter to them and put it somewhere, I dunno. America’s oversaturation of them has kind of left a gummy taste in my mouth so I’m not as excited to see BTS stuff anymore. Interestingly, though, Korea doesn’t shove them down a person’s throat as much as you would think so it wasn’t BTS-overload for us at all.

Anyway, we were out by the Han for what felt like hours. The air was so soupy and thick with humidity and my eye felt like it had been removed and replaced with a shrunken Pinhead. I was in PAIN, y’all. However, when Henry suggested that we get our first bingsu of the trip before heading back to the room, I didn’t put up much an argument (although I did whine a lot about the pain I was in, just in case either of my healthy-eyeballed companions forgot).

It felt SO GOOD to be back in Korea’s underground again! Chooch and I developed a really weird attachment to Seoul’s subway system last year and when we first heard the “train is approaching” jingle this time around, I felt my heart skip a beat.

Also, I can’t remember if it was like this last year, but I noticed this time that the jingle for the airport train was a REMIX of the standard subway tune!

Subway art on point, Seoul.

The streets of Hongdae <3

I kept asking Henry if my eye looked OK and he would say yes without hardly looking, so then I would ask Chooch and he would do this sharp intake of breath and then say, “……well…..” with his face molded into a strong YIKES! expression, so if you ever want to know the truth, ask Chooch not Henry.

We went to Sulbing, which is a popular bingsu chain in Korea. Bingsu is a traditional Korean shaved ice dessert, but that description does NOT do it justice. It’s not like that coarse, watery snocone bullshit. This is a soft, velvety, fluffy concoction of what we believe is more of a milk-ice. There are all kinds of seasonal flavors, but the most original, I think, is the patbingsu – red bean. I prefer the green tea varieties, which also usually include a layer of soft, sweet red bean paste (don’t knock it, man—it’s a fucking crime that we don’t use this ingredient in American desserts) and an additional cup of green tea-infused condensed milk to pour over the whole thing.

It is our absolute favorite dessert in Korea! There’s a Korean bakery in Pittsburgh that makes it but they use regular ice and, well, that ain’t it.

Chooch got the tiramisu one, and Korean’s obsession with tiramisu never ceases to amuse me! I thought maybe it was a trend that would have died out by the time we came back, but no—you can find tiramisu-flavored treats in nearly every bakery and dessert cafe.

I always make Henry share a bingsu with me even though I’m sure I could easily clean a bowl on my own, and he gets so annoyed because I always order without consulting him and he dislikes green tea which is my favorite and I ask you, blog, for the 8087986th time, why are we still together?!

I was so miserable up until the bingsu was placed in front of me, but not even the invisible sword impaling my right eyeball could take my bingsu joy away from me. It was the best way to end the day, that’s for sure.

We walked back to the room after this and I went to bed hoping that my eye would be back to normal the next day.

Please look forward to my next post about Incheon’s Chinatown, but in the meantime, you can read about the next morning when Henry and Chooch abandoned me.

Aug 102019

After we left Onion, we set off for Bukchon Hanok Village. I recently saw an article about how it’s South Korea’s “best kept secret” and that made me laugh because this place can be a madhouse, just a bumbling conglomerate of tourists. When we were there last year, it was…pretty crowded. Crowded enough that it was difficult to get any decent photos. I wanted to try again, by going on a weekday morning and the streets leading to the village were nearly empty. It was ghostly!

Oh, also this time around, we made it straight here without getting lost in alleys and yelling at each other, so it was already a better experience! Please enjoy some pictures from our walk around the ridiculously steep streets of Bukchon Hanok Village!

Hanok translates literally to “Korean house.” Some of them have been converted to guesthouses, so you can actually go to Korea and do what is called a “hanok stay” where you sleep on the floor and experience what it was like to live in a house like that way long ago. I know, that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but I bet it’s still wildly interesting and fun!

Oh, and the floors are heated!

I’m in love with this architecture style. When I came back last year, I changed the picture on our shared Wiki page at work to a shot I took from a balcony of the hanok below and one of my co-workers was like, “Wow…a picture of…roofs.”



Here is a picture of Chooch and me, pretending to get along. J/K we actually were  getting along for real at this juncture. Anyway, the street behind us is like the most iconic street, the one that everyone wants to photograph, and Psy even filmed part of music video here. It’s like, so Completely Korea, you know? Iconic. There are lots of other streets too, and some of the hanoks are open to the public and provide arts and crafts workshops, some are galleries, some are little boutiques. But also, a lot are actual residences (I imagine the people living there have some big ₩₩₩).


Look how wet Chooch’s hair is! Wet with sweat! It was pretty rainy and humid for the first few days we were there, and then after that it was just humid. And Asian humidity is NO JOKE. I thought that coming from Pittsburgh, where are summers are typically hot and soupy, I would be somewhat prepared, but then we ended up having a pretty mild summer here so far so I WAS NOT PREPARED for the humidity and actually, now that I’m home, it feels CHILLY to me and I am sitting here with a blanket on my lap while I type this.

Something interesting that I noted in Seoul is the summer fashion. Here, people wear the least amount of clothes as possible when it’s hot. But in Korea, protecting the skin is a priority, so you would still see most people walking around in pants and long-sleeves. And if they were wearing shorts, then their shirt would be a billowy blouse. Or if you saw someone in a tank top (not very often) they would almost definitely have jeans on. This was appealing to me because I am so body-conscious that I was giddy to be in a place where I could stay covered and not get strange looks. And honestly, it made me feel even more comfortable.

I really think I would thrive if I lived in Korea, lol.

Also, I never did anything with my hair the whole time we were there. First, it was because my hair straightener didn’t work in our guest house because of the voltage and I considered if it was even worth buying a different straightener but the weather forecast app opened magically on my phone with a message that said, “ARE YOU DUMB?” So most days, I didn’t even dry it after showering, just let the humidity do it’s thang, lol.

Being here makes me feel like I’m walking through a historical drama.

This type of architecture has been around since the 14th century. Amazing.

I love how you can see modern Seoul in the background.

My calves would be poppin’ if I had to walk up this every day.

I wonder if they ever do any kind of walking/running challenges in this area. In Pittsburgh, we have a TON of hilly streets and there is a marathon built around that, I feel like it has something to do with “Hell” and “Hills” but I can’t think of the proper name for it right now. And actually, the alleged “steepest road in the world” is like, a mile away from my house. So there are some similarities to my home that is so interesting to think about. Because who would ever compare Pittsburgh to Seoul.

When we reached the top of this road, I looked at Chooch and panted, “Welcome back to Korea!” because our whole last visit was summarized by “TRUDGING UP HILLS.” Lol.

Chooch at the top. We never would have been able to get this shot last year! Or if we came later in the day, or on a weekend. Good lord.

Afterward, it was starting to get dangerously close to lunch time and Chooch and I need to be regularly-fed in order to maintain our angelic dispositions, so we had to start walking to Tongin Market before it got any later. Henry was legit racing the clock at this point because Chooch and I turn on the HUNGER faster than vampires at sunset.

Chooch and I stepped off the road when we saw a vending machine, because he wanted a Gatorade (which apparently tastes different in Korea) but neither of us told Henry so he kept walking and then we were pissed when he didn’t even care that he lost us, so that backfired.

Random art wall.

We got to walk past the Blue House, where the president lives! MUCH BETTER PRESIDENT THAN OURS, that’s all.

It was about a 30-minute walk to Tongin Market, but we somehow made it without getting lost and then we all stuffed our faces and were quite happy. I wrote about that while we were still in Korea, and you can read that here if you are so inclined. 

We were going to get bingsu after this but then we realized that the place I chose was actually a super far walk and it was starting to rain, and by this point, my right eyeball was SCREAMING and when I checked my reflection in the Tongin Market bathroom market, my eye was as bloodshot as one of those aforementioned vampires and it was straight screaming for me to take the contact out.

Aug 092019

Keeping with tradition, we started our first full day off with a nutritious (lol) breakfast from CU. CU is one of several major convenience stores in South Korea and there was one a block away from where we were staying. There was also a 7-Eleven across the street, and a GS25 nearby too. The Big Trifecta!

Chooch always gets some kind of sickeningly sweet breadstuffs, preferably ones that come with stickers.

And mostly every day I would have a soft-boiled egg and a samgak kimbap, which is similar to the Japanese onigiri. I never took any pictures of them, but here’s one that I got from the Internet:

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You can tell that’s not my picture because I haven’t had bare nails in probably 10 years. 

They are SO SATISFYING. It was also provided as one of the snack options on the flight home and I cried a little, knowing that it would be my last one for God only knows how long!

And I usually would have banana milk or some type of cold coffee drink. This one is a special BTS Cold Brew and that’s supposed to look like J-Hope but doesn’t really.

Oh, and Henry always had the exact same red bean and cream bun.

Every single morning.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this already, but for this trip, we were based in my favorite neighborhood of Hongdae. We opted for a guesthouse this time, and it was basically an apartment that a college student would use and it was perfect for our needs because it had a kitchenette and a washing machine which came in handy because it was a billion degrees and humid nearly every day so it was nice to be able to wash our clothes after a long day of trekking around town.

Waiting for Henry outside of the hotel. My eye was hurting that morning but I still put a contact in because I’m an asshole and it would start to be REALLY FUCKED later that afternoon, so good job, Erin.

First thing’s first – gotta get a TMoney card for the subway! The subway is always a cause of contention between Henry and Chooch because Henry naturally wants to take the lead but Chooch Knows Everything and wants to argue about the routes Henry chooses. I just go along with whatever line they tell me we’re taking and pray that we’re going to get there. And to be fair to both of them, we spent way less time spinning in circles on  the streets of Seoul, trying to get our directional bearings. Henry said that Google maps got a lot better to use in South Korea so thank  you for saving our vacation (and family), Google.

Last year, we didn’t get to pick our cards because when we were at the machine in Seoul Station, trying to figure it out, there were these two German guys who had just taken the subway one last time before headed  to the airport, so they gave us their cards (you have to pay for the card itself, so it was really nice of them but then I was stuck using an ugly card all last time! THESE THINGS MATTER TO ME!). I conned Henry into getting couples cards with me, lol. Poor Chooch got stuck with some ugly yellow card with a weird heart, because it was the only youth option. You can even go to various convenience stores and have even more design options, like Kpop groups or whatever, but I figured it would just be like, BTS and Blackpink so I was fine with the Line Friends choice.

(Even though I REALLY wanted a Kakao one but that machine wasn’t in the station where we got the cards that morning, ugh forever. I focus on these little things!)

OMG it felt so amazing to be inside Seoul’s subway stations again! I swear, you could build an itinerary solely around exploring all of their subway stations, they’re amazing and quirky and you can do a lot of shopping in some of them too! Chooch grabbed breakfast in one of them at some point because he didn’t like the thing Henry chose for him at CU one morning.

My itinerary for the first day changed numerous times. Originally, we were going to go back to Changdeokgung Palace because last year, we didn’t do the optional garden tour. But when we got there at 9am, it said that the tours of the garden were guided, and the earliest one didn’t start until 10:30.

But we stayed long enough for Henry to take a horrible, tilted picture of us.

The next plan was to revisit Bukchon Hanok Village because it was pretty crowded last year and they were doing construction on one of the hanok on  the main, most photographable street. However! On the way there, we ran smack into Onion, a cafe I wanted to try and it was such a good call!

The cafe is built into a hanok, so you get a real traditional Korean vibe being there. And the staff was so nice!

Their bread selection was top tier. I wanted Henry to get one of those giant dusted pencil looking things but Chooch made him get some chocolate thing instead because Chooch does this thing where we all have to share our treats with him but then he doesn’t share his with us so I have no idea how delicious his strawberry thing was but I can guess that it probably landed somewhere on the scale between VERY and MOST AMAZING.

I mostly just got an iced Americano at every cafe because it was hot and humid as fuck everyday and I wasn’t craving all the sugary drinks I had last time around.

I chose to sit outside on one of the pillowed steps and Henry was so annoyed because it was really only meant to be a two-seater so he had to alternate between standing and crouching, hahaha. Chooch already has chocolate on his mouth in this picture because he reached straight for Henry’s chocolate roll thing before even tasting his own selection!

I got this masterful thing that had a large smear of red bean on top of a veritable slab of butter. Holy shit, it was delicious but Henry the trash compactor ended up having to finish it for me, with pleasure I’m sure.

There were two ladies sitting next to us who asked me to  take their picture, and then in return, one of them wanted to take ours too so we had to pretend like we liked each other even though Henry was still griping about where I chose to sit and I was like SORRY THAT I WANTED TO HAVE A MORE TRADITIONAL EXPERIENCE, HANK, WE CAN SIT AT A TABLE AT THE NEXT ONE. God.

Then we burned off all those calories by walking around Bukchon Hanok Village, which we found immediately this time around instead of wandering around a maze of twisted streets and alleys last year like a bunch of asshole tourists looking up at the sky, but that will be a story for another day. Like, tomorrow maybe. Or maybe later today. I’ve been up since 4am so we’ll see where the day takes me.

Aug 052019

“I’m so sad that this is our last day,” I said to Chooch this morning. He considered this and said, “Yeah….me too but I’m also kind of excited to go home too.”


I know a lot of people feel that way during the tail end of vacation and I definitely had these guys running for two solid weeks. But I am definitely not ready to leave. I burst into tears about it at one point today ughhh.

We got back to Seoul after our G-Dragon pension adventure around 1pm today and then booked it all over Seoul in an effort to get in all of the last minute gift-buying, food-eating, subway-riding as humanly possible. We were all over Jongno, Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, Seoul Station, and our homebase of Hongdae.

Chooch, after previously being in Korea and eating in numerous Korean restaurants at home, suddenly realized on this trip that he likes bibimbap, so this is what he chose for his last lunch.

I got sujebi which is a soup of hand-torn noodles – so satisfying!

Then we went to Gwangjang Market even though we already ate because we wanted to get some snacks to take home.

Those ajummas selling snacks are smart because they kept feeding Chooch samples and then he’d be all, “We have to get this stuff” and then we would get it and the ajummas were probably calling us suckers in Korean as we walked away.

There were countless times on this trip where Henry lamented the fact that our hotel last year was right across from this market and we only went there twice. I AM SORRY BUT THERE ARE MANY THINGS TO DO IN SEOUL, HANK, AND WE CANNOT STAY IN ONE PLACE.

Had to get a traditional twisted donut before leaving!

Wouldn’t be the same if Henry didn’t get us lost at one point which is what happened when we left Gwangjang with the intention of going to Myeongdong and practically walked the whole way there until he finally found a correct subway station.

But then when we got to the subway, Henry’s card wouldn’t let him in but Chooch and I were already through so Henry was motioning for us to get a subway worker but we just stood there and laughed. Finally, a yellow-vested lady noticed Henry-in-Distress and went over to save him.

(This just in: we just realized that Henry completely repacked our suitcases after Chooch and I worked really hard on it just kidding we did a pretty half-ass job that took about 10 minutes tops.)

(OMG Chooch is acting like he chugged some soju when no one was looking and is being so slaphappy and Henry wants to leave us here FINE BY ME.)

OMG we found another Taemin billboard in the subway station!

Myeongdong! It’s the best place to go for makeup and kpop merch.

Grabbed some makeup and last minute kpop gifts (this is the only place that has these certain kpop keychains that I love) then continued on to Seoul Station specifically to buy some foods at Lotte Mart.

Can you believe we never went to Lotte Mart last year?! I made sure we went this time though and Henry was in grocery paradise. “Why did we wait until the LAST DAY to come here,” he cried.

I have two favorite parts: Chooch freaking out over all the samples (he made friends with a lot of the sample-givers) and Henry irritably standing aside when Chooch assured him that he could tape up the box on his own (you don’t get bags there – you grab a box, unflatten it, and tape it up with the packing tape they provide).

Finally, Henry was like,”Yeah that’s great, and when you pick it up, I can’t wait for everything to fall out,” and then shoved him out of the way and took over, mumbling about how he “does this for a living.”

Seoul Station is amazing. Last trip, it seemed like we were there everyday but this time we were only there twice, and once was when we were getting the train to Jeonju (it’s not just a subway station but also a train and bus terminal as well).

Chooch noticed that the BaskinRobbins there had kakao friends stuff, and then when we took the escalator down to the next level, there was another BR so we figured it was fate and he got a scoop of ice cream (some crazy Simpsons-themed banana ice cream with pop rocks) in an Apeach cup but as you know, he calls her “Peachy Boi.”

No one will be surprised by this but BR in Korea is a billion times better than the ones in America.

We went back to Hongdae after this because I was carrying approx 5 bags of makeup and kpop stuff and Henry was lugging around a box of non-perishable Korean groceries and booze and we needed to drop that shit off!

One last evening view from the 12th floor of JYP House before going back out.

Hongdae is freaking magical.

You can buy flowers from a vending machine. Couples are SUPER into giving flowers around here so Henry would not thrive here at all.

It’s going to be an adjustment being back in Pittsburgh and not having the ultra-convenience of Seoul.

And not having a Gentle Monster! I almost bought a second pair of their sunglasses. I was so close but there were two pairs that I couldn’t choose between so I had a freak out and left but let’s be real, the true cause of my freak out was that we’re leaving tomorrow. :(

We went to Ediya Coffee for one last bingsu (this one was black sugar which is the latest craze and every bubble tea place has it. It was good but only made the pain of leaving EVEN STRONGER).

And when we went to 7/11 afterward and when Henry the American Oaf dropped stuff on the counter not once but twice causing the TOTALLY ADORABLE CASHIER to cry out “Oooh!” and girls in line behind us to chuckle, I was too sad to giddily fall into pee-squat position.

So now I’m sitting here, eating my last Inkigayo idol sandwich with a glass of makgeolli while Henry struggles to pack all our shit (we had to buy an extra suitcase).

I hope I will be able to come back again someday. Coming here so soon after our first time was a real struggle because we are not rich motherfuckers but I’m so grateful that we were able to make it happen and managed to do pretty much everything on my list. I am utterly exhausted but still ready to do more, if only we had the time. This was the best trip of my whole entire life! I think Henry and Chooch had a decent too haha.

Aug 042019

We made it to Ildong today around 11:00am and took a taxi to Pocheon Art Valley for some super sweltering hot fun times before it was time to check in to Dolce Bita (G-Dragon’s pension), all of which I will post about later because right now I’m sitting in the VIP room of G-Dragon’s pension, eating a strawberry sandwich & drinking banana milk with Running Man on TV – exactly where I belong! Korea is my favorite forever.

Family portrait in the mirror of the VIP room’s foyer!

There’s this guy staying in one of the rooms below ours who was laying out earlier and he was SO NICE LOOKING so I was calling him my boyfriend. Later, Chooch was like OH YOUR BF IS ON THE MOVE! I SAW HIM AND ALL OF HIS MUSCLES WALKING AROUND and he told me to look, so I did and he called me a creep?! HE WAS THE ONE WHO WAS LOOKING!!!

We’re supposed to be “relaxing” today since we’ve been so go-go-go for this entire trip and that seemed like a great idea until I got here, in the Middle Of Nowhere, Korea, and remembered that I do not have the ability to relax, ever.

Oh and for anyone who thinks G-Dragon isn’t popular anymore because of BTS, this joint is all booked up.

I brought a book with me so I guess I could try and be a lazy oaf like Henry and read that for a while but it’s not that great – It’s called Baby Teeth and I didn’t know it at the time I checked it out of the library, but it’s written by some broad who lives in Pittsburgh so its super Pittsburghy right down to some stupid comment about how the main character had travel ALL THE WAY TO THE SOUTH HILLS for a doctors appointment, like go fuck yourself, really. All of the characters are insufferable. It’s about a 7-year-old girl who won’t speak and hates her mom and starts doing terrible things to her when the dad isn’t around, and the dad doesn’t believe the mom, who has Crohn’s and every fucking chapter talks in gory detail about various Crohns-related surgeries she’s had and fistulas and packing wounds and I can’t even feel bad for her because I hate her and I hate the daughter and just wish she would die and the dad is such a fucking Swedish creepball, I hate the whole damn family and want a meteor to hit their stupid Hygge house in Shadyside.

I think that’s Danish.

So, yuppie IKEA house in Shadyside.

Meanwhile, Chooch has read two books since we’ve been here (in Korea) and loved both.

Speaking of Chooch, he was straight stalking a Corgi at Pocheon Art Valley today. First, the dog ran up to him barking but his owners called him back and Chooch was like HE WASNT GOING TO ATTACK ME, CORGIS LOVE ME. So then suddenly the Art Valley was super interesting to him and he was determined to pet the dog, to the point where he google translated “can I pet your dog” in Korean.

Here he is at the bottom of a hill, hot on the corgi’s trail. When I caught up to him, he was searching Instagram for the Corgi because according to him, it looked like the owners were doing a photo shoot with him and, like, “all corgis have an Instagram.”

I pointed out that Spencer, the local Corgi, doesn’t have one so now Chooch is going to suggest to his owner Bob that he start one and let Chooch be Spencer’s social media manager.

Anyway, tomorrow is our last day here and I’m panicking about it. We did so much more this time but it still feels like NOT ENOUGH.

Oh well. I will have a full report on the pension, and the Ildong and Pocheon area once I get home and get my thoughts together, but this place is definitely idyllic, especially if you’re the type of person who enjoys vegging out with beautiful nature and pictures of G-Dragon around you!

Ok, Henry just brought out the soju so maybe relaxation won’t be so hard to achieve after all.

UPDATE: GD’s dad is here!!

He was sitting outside when we went out for a walk and very cordially said hello to us but I did NOT have the nerve to ask for a photo, I’m a failure.

Also, some black dog left his owners who were hanging outside of a neighboring pension and decided to tag along with us and it was super awkward bc we were like “go home doggie” but he opted to go down and chill alone by the lake.

Meanwhile, a group of drunk disorderlies stumbled past us and I was like “oh god please don’t be American, you’re going to make everyone here hate us” but one of them screamed, “WE’RE RUSSIAN” to the dog owner who was walking with us in an attempt to get his dog back and I was like THANK GOD and also once they were close to us it was obviously they were Russian because they all looked like hockey players. I stereotype.

Anyway we walked to this cute cafe for an evening iced latte (me), a strawberry smoothie (Chooch) and a Hoegaarten (Henry the Hoe) and it was one of those times where being able to read Korean cane in handy because the whole menu was in Hanguel. A really sweet young girl waited on us and she seemed happy to help us bumbling foreigners. It’s tough the farther you get outside of Seoul because English is rare but it really says something to be on the other side every now and again. Americans take so much for granted!

Now we’re sitting on our patio, Chooch is in the pool, and we’re listening to the people below us talk while barbecuing and maybe slowing down for a night isn’t so bad after all.

Aug 032019

I haven’t been able to keep up with micro-blogging on here like I had hoped to. Last time I was able to do it because I had jet lag so bad that I was up everyday at like 3 or 4am, so….plenty of time for blogging! This time around, my jet lag blessedly only lasted two days so I haven’t had time to kill.

But today, we’re going to G-Dragon’s pension in Pocheon (!!!!!!) which is like a two hour bus ride so here I am with a Korea Update!

We’re just standing here waiting to get on our bus and Henry is obsessing over how korean girls walk around with giant curlers on their bangs and the girl standing near us is “wearing hers differently” according to Hair Expert Henry. Speaking of hair, my flat iron wasn’t compatible with the voltage in our room (or some other blahblahblahage that wafted from Henry’s mouth) so my hair has been Status: Miss Frizz for basically this whole trip. Wish he cared about my hair as much as he cares about Korean bangs!!!

I guess I will tell you about yesterday since I’m on the bus now and have some time!

We spent the whole first half of the day on a tour of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and the JSA (joint security area) which I wanted to do last year too but was too nervous. I will do a proper post on that when I get home because there is so much to share that it will probably be a multi-post series!

We got back to Seoul around 6 and spent the evening in Hongdae, which is where we’ve been staying this time.

But first we had to take the subway back. This is what the City Hall station currently looks like. Probably construction but maybe art installation because…Seoul.

This is how beautiful the evening sky was from our room when we popped in to change!

I promised Chooch earlier on that we would go to an animal cafe if he didn’t act like a dick, and he chose Thanks Nature Cafe, which is the home to two soft and beautiful sheep named Tom & Jerry.

We went to a raccoon cafe last year and that was a lot of fun but the staff was kind of meh and I don’t remember it having that great of a menu. The raccoons were awesome though!

This cafe was a lot better in my opinion because the guy running it was super congenial and their dessert menu was A+++. They had bingsu which is what I had wanted to get after our DMZ day but the place I wanted to go to wasn’t conveniently accessible and I didnt want to be on a bus anymore that day. So this worked out perfectly because Chooch got to “bum bum pat” sheep and I got to inhale some sweet melon bingsu.

Presentation is everything!

Little known fact about me is that we had sheep as pets when I was growing up so I love me some sheep. The best one we had was named Squirt and she would always try to sneak into the house. She would put her front hooves on my brother Ryan’s back and they’d run around the yard together. It was the cutest thing ever! When I go to my mom’s house, I can’t even look at the area where the pen used to be because it makes me miss Squirt!

Chooch was satisfied after that. Good job, Thanks Nature Cafe!

Afterward, we went up the street to Isaac Toast because I have been craving it! They’re basically just breakfast sandwiches but they have this sweet mustard/mayo-ish sauce on them that elevates it to the next level.

You can get all kinds of meat-stuffed varieties but I went with egg and potato. Ugh it’s so good. I kept saying that Henry would probably have to eat half since we just ate bingsu and I was full but then I scarfed the whole thing like how Trump sucks down Kellyanne Conway’s soul before bed every night.

Update to show you beautiful Korean mountains from the bus:

After Isaac Toast we just walked around Hongdae and shopped.

Hongdae is my favorite area of Seoul. It’s where Hongik University is located and it’s just so full of creative energy and Fun Times.

We always make fun of Henry when he orders street food and then he storms off.

We also promised Chooch that he could go back to the stupid claw machine arcade and I swear to god this place is HELL ON EARTH for people like me who do not enjoy seeing perfectly good money getting sucked away into machines with nothing in return.

Chooch gets SO STRESSED OUT HERE. Especially when people all around him are like YAY I WON and he’s like WTF HOW?! There was this one super tall guy in glasses who was winning so much shit that his gf was following him around carrying BAGS OF HIS BOUNTY.

Busride snack time, BRB!

OK, I’m back.

We have seen so much more of Korea this time around and I’m so happy about it. I hope this doesn’t make me sound bratty, but being in Japan for two days, while great and exciting, made me realize just how much I love Korea. I was so happy to be back when we landed in Incheon Friday night! I would move here in a heartbeat if I was single, I swear to god.

My busmates *eyeroll*

Henry is obsessed with this drink. I tried it yesterday and was struck with nostalgia.

“That tastes just like a Squeez-It!” I cried enthusiastically but Henry couldn’t relate because when I was drinking Squeez-Its in elementary school, he was out drinking BEERS.

Anyway, I guess we will be arriving in about 20 minutes so I’m gonna peace out here and maybe try to update again later on once we get to the pension! BLOG, I MISS YOU!

Jul 312019

I never thought I would have the privilege to say this, but being in Japan has made me realize that Korea no longer really feels foreign to me. It’s a weird observation!

There are many other observations too but because I’m a weirdo who cares about stupid things, the big one for me is the comparison of banana milks. I’m not trying to make this a Korea vs Japan thing but I must admit that Korea’s 바나나 우유 is the superior beverage, although whatever that Japanese banana milk is up there has a more colorful packaging which appeals to me.

But in the end, is any banana milk really not good?!

Jul 302019

Yaaaaah, hi guys. We’re on the Express Train to Incheon Airport because we’re going to Tokyo for a few days!

So far, this trip has been exceptional. I was really worried for the first two days because of my eye, but it appears to be all healed now and I started wearing my contacts again even though Henry the Optometrist advises against it. Lemme tell you, it’s a new brand of disorienting when you’re having eye issues in a foreign country, but also extremely Erin R. Kelly-ish.

Daily selfies while Henry the Oaf was still slumbering like a fucking prince.

We didn’t have much time to do anything before leaving today, and it was storming in the morning so nature-y things were out of the question. I suggested that we go to this new robot cafe called Bot Cafe where robots make your coffee and this apparently unleashed a swarm of hornets into Henry’s asshole because it was in Seongsu which is the opposite direction of the airport and also didn’t open until 11 so we were going to be really rushed but I Veruca Salted my way onto the subway (after buying an adorable umbrella at Daiso because the one I had been using that was provided by the guest house is a long one and since we weren’t coming back to the room, I needed a retractable one to be able to fit into my backpack, so this was another thing that Henry was mad about).

Worth it, obviously.

Anyway, Seongsu is like 20+ stops from where we’re staying in Hongdae and Henry was so grumbly, but I was excited because the station was a shoe museum!!

There were all kinds of exhibits and I was trying to look but Henry was oafing along without stopping.


We found the damn cafe – luckily it was right near the subway exit – but they’re still going through a soft opening so even though it was 11, they said they weren’t ready yet and asked us to come back in 30 minute BUT WE DID HAVE THAT KIND OF FREE TIME!

Ugh. We were so close, Bot Cafe. We were so close.

So that’s been the haps for Wednesday so far. Hopefully the flight goes well and we don’t have a million fights in the Tokyo subway. Because now that henry has the Seoul subway system mastered, he has to learn a new one so this is going to be amazing! I can’t wait for Henry and Chooch to have so many fights over directions in Japan.

Jul 302019

Monday was an action-packed day. Most of it was spent at Lotte World, which is the world’s largest indoor amusement park (a portion is also outdoors) and known as Korea’s Disneyland. It was so much fun and very exhausting!

But that’s not why I’m posting.

We ventured back out around 8:30 and things got super giddy right from the start when the elevator doors opened and people were already inside – Chooch started to have a laughing fit and was hiding in the corner while Henry glowered. He HATES our giddiness. By the time the elevator left us off in the lobby, I was laughing too and Henry stormed off. We caught up to him but he purposely slowed down so he was behind us because he didn’t want to be seen with us or something, who knows.

Henry being pissed going down into the Hongdae subway station.

Chooch is going to make a great travel partner for someone someday because he masters public transportation in a scary-quick way. I’m all stumbling around, getting turned around, tripping on nothing but solid ground, and he knows exactly which line and exit to use every time.

(To Be Fair, Ive been operating with ONE EYE on this trip although last night I said eff it and put both contacts in so Henry said that when my right eye falls out, don’t go one-eye-crying to him.)

It was so good to see the DDP again! I love this place so much, especially at night! It’s like being on a spaceship.

Seeing this gate was so significant because we walked to it on our first night in Korea last year, when we were fresh from the plane and super delirious. It’s crazy now to be back and have things look and feel familiar to us.

Chooch and Henry were hungry so we walked through nearby Gwangjang Market, which is the one they always feature on street food shows so if you’ve ever watched anything about South Korea, you have probably seen this. Chooch got bindaedduk which is a mung bean pancake, to take back to the room and then we were urgently summoned over to another stall by this adorable grandma who, in a series of hand motions, basically told us, “I’m going to put this food on a tray and you’re going to eat it, give me 10,000₩.”

Henry and I had makgeolli with our snacks and I barely drank any but REALLY FELT IT so the next portion of the night was awesome as Chooch (naturally drunk) and I (also naturally drunk but now actually drunk too) were totally slaphappy, especially because we were plied with sugary hotteok before leaving the market, but also because we decided to walk to the area we stayed at last time, in Jongno. Oh for god’s sake, being there again made us fucking die with laughter, just straight up choke on giggles, and Henry was whatever emotion comes on the Rage Totem Pole three pegs after “agitated hemorrhoids” but one before “caught the wife cheating.”

He stormed off ahead of us and muttered something about us being embarrassments and the disappeared into the subway station, completely ignoring Chooch’s cries of “Please reenact the subway scene!” referring to last year when he lost us and we have a video of him popping into the frame of that same subway station, with his arms out and making the “WHAT THE HELL” motion with his dumb head.

There is something about Henry’s general presence that KILLS Chooch and me. Like, we oscillate between being totally disgusted by him (“I hate him so much” is like our whispered catchphrase) to being absolutely entertained by everything he does but not in a way that’s flattering to him. Chooch mocks him so perfectly (he does this weird Paul Eugene-esque grunt to symbolize Henry’s voice) and I lose it every time and have to do the trying-not-to-pee squat.

Then when we got back to the hotel, THE SAME PPL FROM THE ELEVATOR were coming back at the same time and I had to make Chooch wait outside with me because I knew I would piss my pants if I got back on the elevator with those people.

If Chooch and I had forgotten which room was ours, we could have just followed the trail of steam that Henry left behind from his ears and nose; his patience was straight BLISTERING when we found him.

I dunno what it is about being in Korea but it’s like Chooch and I are mainlining laughing gas which is a HUGE problem for Henry but a blessing for the rest of us!

Bonus picture from yesterday morning, waiting for the elevator, a/k/a our Chuckle Chamber.

Anyway, we just got back to the room after a fun time day on the Chungyecheon Stream and Insadong, and now we’re resting for an hour before heading out to Digital Media City for a live taping of SBS MTV’s The Show!