If you watch any Seoul travel videos on YouTube, or if you’re into kpop even a little, you know all about Hongdae. It’s like THE hotspot for cool college kids, artists, fashion trendsetters, and underground culture. This is where you want to go if you’re into clubbing (I’m not, but there are some YG-owned hip hop clubs in Hongdae that are supposed to be legendary), quirky street fashion, cafes from the weirdly themed to the high-brow hipster, and watching 5 different street performances at once. I was so excited to explore it, but also nervous because I wasn’t sure if I was cool enough to hang there; luckily the vibe was super laid back and just touristy enough that even Henry was like, “No, this is fine. I like it.”
You guys, I’m crying again, lol. This whole trip made me feel like Heidi after leaving Grandfather’s mountaintop cabin and all her goatherd friends for the BIG CITY. Except for the homesick part. I didn’t miss home ONE SINGLE BIT.
Um…sorry. I get dramatic sometimes. Anyway, Hongdae is named after the nearby Hongik University which I currently have listed as #1 choice on Chooch’s list of colleges. He doesn’t know this yet, but he’ll find out once the acceptance letter comes in the mail or by hologram, however things are being delivered in 2024.
Hongdae also is home to one of the restaurants owned by Haha and Jong Kook of Running Man!
“I don’t watch Running Man, but sure – take your damn picture” – Chooch.
Another notable thing about Hongdae is that the YG Entertainment building is there, and some people apparently call the whole area YG Town because of all of the YG-owned businesses around. And on that same note, my friend Veronica sent me a message on Instagram because apparently Ikon, a YG kpop group, was walking around Hongdae AT THAT SAME TIME giving out HUGS, whaaat. I got her message right after we were waiting to cross the street and saw people taking pictures of this guy in black:
I don’t know much about Ikon so I wasn’t sure who this was, but MAYBE?! He was definitely someone.
Aren’t we all.
Hongdae wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded when we were there on a Tuesday afternoon, but we did go back on a Saturday night and it was packed, but the crowds didn’t have that pushy, suffocating feel to it. It was way more of a party atmosphere and I had The Heart Eyes for it. More on that in a separate post though, because today we’re going to focus on some of the unique, totally extra shopping options.
One Piece was one of many novelty cafes that Chooch wanted to go to but I was like WE CAN’T DO EVERYTHING OK PICK ONE but now I’m like, “WHY COULDN’T WE DO EVERYTHING, WAHHHH.”
Speaking of Chooch, I asked him his review of Hongdae and apparently he will forever associate it with nearly breaking his ankle, cry much?
OK, right, this post is supposed to be all short and sweet, and just focused on shops of Hongdae. SORRY. You know me and all my words. We’ll get this post officially started with Chuu, which I couldn’t wait to see Henry inside of because it’s SO PINK AND GIRLY.
It didn’t faze Chooch one single bit, but Henry grumbled through the whole place. I told him to sit in the hallway with the other forlorn man hating his life, but he opted to stay inside because OBVIOUSLY HE LIKED IT. Come on, Henry, it’s 2018 – buck those gender norms! Embrace the pink! Wear some lace panties! YOU CAN BUY THEM IN CHUU’S BASEMENT!
The Chuu Strawberry Milk collection kills me dead.
Directly across from Chuu was the Stylenanda flagship store, which I thought I would like more than I did, but the clothes were less eye-catching to me.
Chooch really loved this chair, although this was about 45 minutes after he “broke” his ankle so he probably would have made that face sitting in a hard church pew, too. Chooch’s main goal everywhere we went that day was finding somewhere to pop a squat, and I want to take a moment to say that I never heard of the expression “pop a squat” until MTV had that reality game show called The 70s House back in the early oo’s and the host of the show said that in the first episode and I was like, “IS SHE TELLING THEM TO PEE” and Henry was like, “NO, THAT IS WHAT WE SAID WHEN WE WANTED SOMEONE TO SIT DOWN IN THE 70S” and I still think that sounds like you’re telling someone to go out back and piss in a ditch.
Maybe that’s just me.
Wait, is this a travel blog about Seoul or camping in West Virginia? I keep forgetting.
This is Henry’s “EITHER HURRY UP AND BUY SOMETHING OR LET’S LEAVE” face. He was looking up pictures of fourth of July hamburger-loaded grills and oil rigs to trick his weener into coming back out from hiding. Mmm, juicy masculinity.
I feel like we had a huge fight somewhere in between leaving Stylenanda and after discovering the Hongdae location of Gentle Monster was closed while the concept was changing because Henry thought he knew exactly where Ader Error was and led us down 87 incorrect streets to the point where I called a moratorium on the Ader Error JUST AS WE RAN RIGHT INTO IT.
You guys. Even if you don’t give a shit about clothes, if you are ever in Seoul, please don’t pass up Ader Error. It is an experience. First, we had to walk through a room that had nothing but mattresses in it, and then we had to enter the actual store by walking THROUGH one of the mattresses and Henry was like, “What kind of store did you say this was again?”
And I told him it was a clothes store, but then after a few more seconds, he mumbled, “But…where are the clothes?
Oh they keep those stashed away upstairs, while the first floor is an indulgent art installation where all of the fitting rooms are re-imagined bathrooms. I didn’t take pictures of anything down there because the guy working seemed like he was against this and quickly told us that the clothes were upstairs.
But the guy upstairs was much friendlier and was worried that we were going to miss one of the curious displays of branding and made sure to usher us through a doorway that seemed more like if I took an axe and attempted to make my own door after watching 2 minutes of This Old House.
I have to say that I wasn’t loving the clothes all that much (until after we came home and they released a new kitsune line which includes this sweater FML:
I mean, it costs like $800 though.
Chooch really liked this ugly sweater that looked shrunken but the price certainly didn’t reflect the lack of material, let me tell you. He was mad for a second that we wouldnt buy it for him but I think he only wanted to buy something to watch them drop it down this weird iridescent tube to the downstairs check-out. Meanwhile, though, the guy who was on patrol upstairs latched onto us but not in a I’M HERE TO SELL YOU THINGS type of way. He seemed genuinely interested in where we were from and how we heard of Ader Error.
(“uh, YouTube vlogs,” I mumbled in embarrassment while Henry sighed.)
He encouraged us to take it all in because it really is just as much as of a contemporary art installation as it is a clothing store, and then he excitedly led us down another set of steps into a small basement soap shop.
It’s called Day After Day and whoever would have thought a bar of soap could be so hipster?
If you know me, or if you have read this blog over the years, you know that I lovelovelove a local Pittsburgh art museum called The Mattress Factory which is always chockful of super contemporary, modern avant garde art. Ader Error (and also Gentle Monster, but I will get to that later, I promise) reminded me of that and I loved it just like I knew I would. I mean, a soap-stuffed commode — sure, why not! #art
This room made me feel like a futuristic Alice in Wonderland.
I just realized you can see our friend in the mirror! He was so great! Henry liked him a lot too which is why I think he didn’t flinch or bitch while paying $40 for a giftset of soap, lol.
This was in a narrow dead-end hallway of Ader Error, because sure.
Man, I fell HARD for Ader Error. I fell hard for Hongdae in general.
Not Hongdae-related, but we had our hearts set on bingsu after we ate at Aori Ramen, and we were struggling to find a place in Hongdae — there was one place that we saw that apparently it changed into a different restaurant a year ago but the sign was never taken down. In an effort to keep us from shambling around like zombies, I made the executive decision that we would go back to Insadong because there was FOR SURE a bingsu place there, actually it’s a franchise called Sulbing.
So that was how we capped off an extraordinary day in Hongdae, sharing bingsu in Insadong. I felt like I was dreaming because REAL bingu was something that I wasn’t leaving Seoul without trying. There is a Korean bakery in Pittsburgh that has it on the menu but I knew when I tried it that it wasn’t right, that real bingu in Korea had to be better.
And shit goddamn motherfucker, was it ever!
I was going to do with classic patbingsu (red bean) but I always gravitate toward matcha. Also, Henry doesn’t care for green tea so I knew he would eat more of Chooch’s than mine AND I WAS RIGHT. IT WAS SO GOOD.
Bingsu is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert but don’t get it twisted, it’s not like a snow cone – this ice is sooooo soft and pillowy and then there is some type of velvety cream poured over it and a scoop of ice cream and little chappsaldduk (korean mochi) surrounding it like a royal crown and just please have some if you ever have an opportunity. It’s like a sundae but one that’s made for legit angels to eat while swinging their dangling legs off a fluffy cloud bed. It’s delicate, you guys. Eat it gently.