May 212024
 

…and not the kinds of dongs that you will find in the Cedar Point parking lot.

After a long and leisurely morning strolling palace grounds, we unanimously agreed with whole hearts that it was:

SALT.

BREAD.

TIME.

Back to Ikseondong!

Frfr, if you’re in Seoul, ya gotta get to this spot and grab a bag(sssss) of motherfucking salt bread. My mouth is filling up faster than Tammy Faye’s eyeballs, you hear. The mere THOUGHT of the salt bread has my mouth WEEPING.

PLEASE ignore my trash nails. I was too busy running around Korea to worry about painting them. (Although I think I did that night?!)

Jayeondo Salt Bread, you are 100% worth the hype. Listen to the salty, crumby cries of the people – this is THE place to get your sogum bbang on. I wish I could several bags delivered to me right now.

Still having (some) room left in our stomachs, we hit up the nearby Cheese Industry, having ogled the goods a few days earlier. I didn’t want to leave Korea without getting something from here, so Henry and I shared a honey brown pastry – some sort of delicious, sweet cheese thing slightly reminiscent of baklava and dotted with hazelnuts. I could easily have housed this whole thing on my own, but whatever. We were going to get lunch soon plus do more cafe hopping later so I didn’t want to ruin myself so early in the day. All I can say is THANK GOD for all the walking we did, else I’d have had to buy all new pants when we came home.

SHEESH.

They make their own cheese in-house! And even a selection of their drinks are infused with cheese! I opted for just an iced Americano though because I do have limits. But! I have had drinks with cheese foam / cheese caps from Asian cafes in the States and can confirm that it is the good kind of unusual taste. Ugh, I hope this place is still there the next time I go to Korea!!

Also, I’m wearing my necklace from Gyeongju in this picture! I love that necklace and I loved that man that owned the gift shop where I bought it! AND I LOVE GYEONGJU.

LOL Chooch with his ring that he made with us in Hongdae that served as a fidget spinner for the rest of the trip.

After this, we did some perusing in the shops. I bought a scarf that I am considering using as a background for our dumb marriage license once we finally get it framed, and then there was this adorable collegiate-esque cardigan that I had my eyes on the first time we walked through Ikseondong. It says MILK on it and I love clothes like that because my aesthetic is very niche.

Anyway, I almost didn’t buy it! I don’t know why I get like this, like I get preventive buyer’s remorse just by touching something on a rack and then I start pouting even though no one told me I couldn’t buy it?? But when the salesperson asked me if I wanted to try it on, I said NO for some idiotic reason and then not 1 minute later, some older woman strutted in, tried it on and immediately bought it, walked right out still wearing it.

Henry looked at me and frowned. It was the only one on the rack. :(

But that gave me the IF IT WAS MEANT TO BE….kick in the ass that I needed so I marched over to the salesperson and asked if they had any more. Of-fucking-course they did, come on. She pulled another one, still wrapped in plastic, out of a box and held it out to me, nodding for me to try it the fuck on already.

So I did.

And then I handed over some cash and walked out happy.

NO REGERTZ.

After Ikseondong, we walked to the neighboring Insadong because this is where lunch was happening. But first, family caricature time at Acorn! There are numerous locations around Seoul (maybe outside of Seoul too? I feel like I saw one in Jeonju…) and this one is unique because they specialize in fast drawings. I think 1 or 2 minutes per subject? And you can even show them a picture of your pet on your phone and they will draw from that too!

Chooch was NOT happy to do this and kept hoping that I would forget.

I wish I looked that cute IRL!! And I love how she captured Henry’s downtrodden essence. He looks beat down, which is accurate having spent so much unrelenting time with me and Chooch. :)

Back in one of the alleys of Insadong is yet another vegetarian restaurant called Osegeahyang. This one is pretty well-established, I think. When you walk in, there’s a wall of famous vegetarian/vegans and I dunno why but the formality of WILIAM BRADLEY PITT cracked us up so Chooch was inspired to take a picture.

That says “American actor” under his name.

Yo, we feasted here. It had a really decent crowd, a mix of locals and foreigners, so that’s always a great sign! The Happy Cow website tells me that this is one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Seoul (and by that they probably mean non-temple food restaurant I bet).

I had been craving jjajangmyeon, but that dish traditionally has PORK in it (lol I initially type PORN I guess because of all the DONGS) so when I saw that this place had it, my eyes became blind to the rest of the menu. I only had eyes for you, jjajangmyeon.

Henry got tonkatsu and I have no idea what Chooch got, some Chinese ‘chicken’ dish? And a plate of Korean fried ‘chicken’ for the table.

(Henry’s tonkatsu was REALLY good, btw, and I had slight ordering remorse but my jjajangmyeon really was just what I needed.)

I got a fried “egg” on the side. This picture is so trash – I must have been in a hurry to start eating.

Just looking at this is making me so hungry and I literally just ate dinner. Henry, make me pork-less jjajangmyeon this weekend, wah.

Dude, this was a really great first half of the day! I had fun reliving it just now. :(

May 162024
 

Sunday morning was school picture day! Honestly, one of the non-negotiable things on my itinerary was getting some nice snaps of our high school senior with the “good camera.” You can see those portraits here! I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in the post with Chooch’s portraits, but if you want to get some nice shots with a palatial background sans clusters of undulating tourists, skip the most popular palace (Gyeongbokgung is a must-see but it is the most famous of all the main palaces in Seoul and it gets packed) and check out Changgyeonggung Palace instead. You are still going to get that signature Joseon Dynasty architecture, the serene nature, and the feeling of stepping back into another time – just without as many people!

We arrived minutes before the ticket booth opened and were among the first people to go inside. Literally no one around! It was really nice to just have a slow morning walking around the grounds, looking at nature-y things, and actually not fighting now that I think about it?! Even though PICTURES were involved!

Hahaha I hate myself, honestly but this is the best depiction of how I was feeling and I can tell you that right now I am feeling the exact opposite, like instead of jumping for joy, I am crumbling from depression. It’s fine. I’ll be fine. Henry keeps giving me gentle reminders that we will be back and even though I cry, “YEAH RIGHT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT!” every time, at least I know he is willing to go back??

We had been there for about fifteen minutes and no one had come into this courtyard yet! They were all still right inside the gate taking pictures of the blossoms, lol.

LOL I married that guy. Wow.

 

Seriously. Korea. You’re my one true love.

Chooch didn’t mention that our faces were obscured by shadows BUT OK.

Ahhh OMG you guys, then we finally saw our first Korean squirrel!! I wasn’t squirrel’bsessed in 2018 and 2019 when we were there so maybe we saw some then and I just don’t remember, but this time I was ON THE HUNT. I mean, not actually THE HUNT because I’m a vegetarian and would never harm an animal or even most bugs – I shed real tears last night when I thought that I actually dumped my ant friend who had been hanging out on my work desk down the drain because when I poured out the dregs of my coffee cup, it looked like an ant fell out with it but maybe it was just a coffee ground?!!? Regardless, I had a quiet moment where I stood and looked solemnly out the front door, thinking about how for the last two days I had gently moved him away from my keyboard so he wouldn’t get smashed, complained about my job to him, asked him when he thought the mailman was going to come. We really spent a lot of quality time together and I haven’t seen him since, is what I’m trying to tell you. Anyway, when I turned away from the door, Henry was sitting on the couch and I blurted out I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING and then I started crying but also laughing because I was near-hysteria and he was so scared, like bracing himself, and then I blurted out in a high-pitched wail, “THERE WAS AN ANT THAT I BECAME FRIENDS WITH THE OTHER DAY ON MY DESK AND I THINK I ACCIDENTALLY DROWNED HIM IN THE SINK” and of course Henry the Heartless was like, “How do you know it was the same one?”

Fuck off, Henry.

It cost W2,000 for the three of us – Chooch was free. That’s less than $1!!!! There is no reason to NOT come into any and all of these palaces if you’re in Seoul.

We also went into a beautiful greenhouse that was on the grounds. Here’s pictures that Chooch took of some palace cats that were lounging around in there like the royalty that they are:

More pictures that Chooch took because I just remembered he made a shared album! (Most of his pictures are dumb inside jokes with his friends though, so – worthless to me.)

I swear to god you can always see Namsan Tower in the background, and it’s so comforting, like seeing an old friend.

That last picture is MINE, thank you.

And this was just the start of our day!

May 152024
 

If I was making an itinerary for someone visiting Seoul, I would 100% include a walk along the Seoul City Wall, starting in Dongdaemun. Henry will roll his eyes, but before our first trip to Korea, I used to watch Joan Kim’s “Joan Day” YouTube channel. She vlogged every single day for a year (maybe 2 actually) and I owe so much to her videos because it gave us “insider tips” into the best neighborhoods, shops, cafes, etc. It’s how I learned about Gentle Monster, Ader Error, Mil Toast, Onion…

But what I also am so thankful for is her one vlog where she was taking some visiting friends around Seoul and how she stressed that some of the best views of Seoul could be found at Naksan Park at sunset, accessed either through the Ihwa Mural Village or by hiking alongside the Seoul Fortress Wall in Dongdaemun.

We did this in 2018, opting to go through the mural village. It was spectacular. Even Henry couldn’t deny it.

This time, we decided to go up the other way, by following the wall. It’s a lot of Up Hill. Many Steep. But so worth it. We got a later start than I had anticipated, but it ended up being in our favor because GODDAMN that night view, those city lights, the absolute bonkers vibe of that area at night. The couples on dates. The families. The dogs! It wasn’t crowded at all, the weather was perfect, we were all in a good mood. I loved this night a lot, is what I’m trying to say. Let’s look at piccccccs.

You can see that there’s a pretty nice trail, you’re not like, scaling a mountain or anything. It’s not that kind of hike. I mean, I did this in slip-on Vans. And look at all the benches! There are plenty of rest areas along the way. You can do this!

See? Just a Broad and Her Vans (Slip-Ons).

I kept turning around to take more pictures, as if the view was going to have drastically changed. You can see the DDP down there! And Heunginjimun Gate!

Through one of the wall openings.

Chooch literally Pokemon Go’d all through Seoul. Also, those are the sweatpants he bought in Namdaemun Market and had regertz for not buying more.

WHAT IF THIS IS ONE OF THE LAST SELFIES CHOOCH AND I EVER TAKE TOGETHER IN KOREA??? :(

Chooch, hurry up and graduate and get rich and then buy me a house here.

My eyes are so awful and I couldn’t tell that portrait mode was taking some really mid shots. But I just loved how the farther up we walked, the more little neighborhoods started popping up. The alleys were breakneck steep. I think that’s what I was trying to capture here. Well, ya FAILED, hon.

This was from one of the first overlooks we came upon. There was a small walking tour happening too and I was trying to snoop but then then guide namedropped BTS and I lost interest.

Ew, Henry took this, lol.

That Hollywood-esque sign down there says Naksan Park. YES I CAN READ HANGEUL BACKWARDS, I AM THE BEST.

Here you can see the fortress wall as it goes back down the other side.

Asking Chooch to take our picture is so scary. I had to delete a series of ZOOM-INS on Henry’s face once we got back to the hotel.

Henry took these with his idiot phone and thought he was so cool. I’m only including them because it was an actual miracle that he was taking pictures at all.

If you follow the other side of the wall down to the bottom of the mountain, it spills you out into I guess what it is Ihwa-dong. This area is kind of nuts at night because it’s essentially a college campus so there are young people out and about in droves, tons of bars and clubs – let’s just say that even I felt a bit too old being here, lol.

We stopped at a super cool stationary / gift shop though and I bought some fun journals and a pencil pouch which made Henry roll his eyes. Chooch was on a hunt for “a pencil” and bought the plainest one there.

Here are some pictures Chooch took after we came back down into town:  

This ad was in pretty much every subway station, which was fine by me because I love that actor!

Anyway, after this it was BINGSU time so we took the subway back to Dongdaemun and found a Sulbing on the second floor of some random building. It was PACKED and we just barely snagged a table.

Bingsu is one of most favoritest things about Korea! It’s such a fun dessert.

Chooch got strawberry (and was angry when he discovered a hidden center of red bean, lol – Henry and I love red bean but Chooch refuses to let him like it) and Henry and I split a classic injeolmi (soy bean powder – it’s hard to describe but it’s subtly sweet, nutty, and soft).

FML I miss this. Why didn’t we get bingsu every night?!!?

And then I spent a solid 10 minutes trying to record the screen back there because Astro was in the ad and Henry’s ULT BIAS, THE FACE GENIUS CHA EUN WOO, was eating the same bingsu we ordered. The people behind me probably thought I was the biggest fucking Kpopper because I really did spend an absurd amount of time trying to capture this – the first time idiot Henry moved into the shot and took a monstrous spoonful of bingsu into his gaping maw, he looked prehistoric. I think I actually saved that clip, WHICH YOU CAN SEE IF YOU WATCH MY RECAP VIDEO OF THIS WHOLE DAY!!!!!

May 142024
 

In continuing with our unofficial and undeclared vegan tour of Seoul, and after collecting Chooch from the hotel (he bought his own lunch at 7-Eleven that day, he definitely doesn’t need us lol). we went to Cafe Siva for dinner that Saturday evening. This place had popped up several times on various “vegan Seoul” videos I had watched on YouTube and I was especially interested in the “supreme yangnyeom chicken.”

Once we were done taking in the protest that was making its way down the road (we were there during election season and the city was lit up with protests – we even saw one of the candidates at the Seoul Forest subway station, shaking hands with commuters while being filmed for the news), we went inside and I immediately loved the cozy vibe. The colors were so soothing and the space itself just felt very calm and slow. I guess that makes sense because Cafe Siva is apparently affiliated with the yoga studio next door.

I was looking at some reviews on Happy Cow and someone was complaining because they have an electronic ordering kiosk there, and they do, but like…so? We still had interactions with the staff there so it wasn’t like it was completely impersonal, it just greatly reduced the ordering anxiety.

Henry is supposed to be helping me write this but he is currently doing the same thing he’s doing in this picture – WILING AWAY HIS LIFE, MINDLESSLY SCROLLING THROUGH HIS NEWSFEED. I swear to god, talk about someone ADDICTED to his phone. It’s actually disturbing.

Chooch’s drink with the cutie cat stirrer, and Henry in the background not knowing what to do because I probably told him to put his phone away (you know, being a NAG since we are MARRIED now).

YOU GUYS. The owner’s dog was there. A good sign that we were in a safe space.

This dog reminded me of my childhood BFF Wally <3

Chooch’s veggie burger nearly gave me ordering remorse.

Henry can’t remember what he got. “It was….chicken. It was like….some kind of chicken.” If this was something that had come up in his newsfeed, he might remember…Maybe if it was an Instagram reel.

Speaking of IG, now he’s cruising Cafe Siva’s page looking for what he ordered and turns out it was vegan dak-kalbi.

“Did you like it?”

“YEAH!” he exclaimed, in between murmuring, “Wow, I would have got that instead,” at all of the dishes he’s seeing on Instagram that he doesn’t remember being on the menu.

Wow, he’s so cool.

But no, you guys. The star of the show was my SUPREME YANGNYEOM CHICKEN. Holy mother of all that is moly, this could have been the best thing I ate the whole time we were in Korea?!!! I housed nearly this whole tower on my own and I am not ashamed to tell you this. Chooch didn’t dare try one because they were made of mushrooms and, even though his current self-improvement goal is to force himself to add mushrooms into his diet, this was certainly not a thing yet when we were in Korea. So he didn’t even glance at my ‘shroom pyramid. I did let Henry have three (maybe just two) and then I diligently toppled the tower into my gut all on my own.

I could have easily eaten the WHOLE thing on my own, I’m confident.

In fact, some girl came in after us and sat at a table alone with a book and ordered the same thing. I watched as she methodically ate it one by one, never taking her eyes off her book.

That is the life I want to live.

I mean, not here though.

In Korea.

The best part is that this didn’t even hurt my stomach!! It was so satisfying.

If (sigh) we ever go back, I will be returning to Cafe Siva, especially because all of the reviews I was reading today were spazzing out over how good the milkshakes are and now I of course need to research this for myself.

Afterward, we got back on the subway and went back to the DDP area because I really wanted to do the Seoul City Wall walk. But, that will be a post for another day!

I’d like to once again thank Henry for his hefty contributions to this recap, he basically carried the whole damn thing on his back with that one strong YEAH he gave me.

May 112024
 

We last left off with Henry and I shipping Chooch off alone to Gangnam so he could Pokemon Go his face off without having to deal with us nags. I did forget to mention that in the subway station we used after the Ewha / Sinchon stuff, I bought two rings (one is a face and today at brunch Megan was ogling it so now I obviously have to go back to Korea ASAP and get her one) and a really cute pouch which knots perfectly around your wrist and is so convenient and also super cute.

Also quick disclaimer, I’m writing this while drinking my way thru a soju buffet with Henry so for once I have a legit excuse for any collateral typos.

OK OK, we said fare thee well to Chooch and got off at the DDP stop, where we IMMEDIATELY had a hell of a time finding the NCT exhibition. We *did* find the other Kpop thing that was happening, which was billed as a “history of Kpop” and it SORT OF was in the beginning in that you walked down a hallway that was a kpop timeline (BIGBANG did get their due props BUT Seungri was cut out of the photos that were used which was annoying) but this ended up being an SM artists extravaganza so we quickly realized that this was an SM-sanctioned pop-up.

Of-fucking-course but I’m not complaining because I love SM artists so much. You, Blog, do not care about this stuff I don’t think but here are some photos I took anyway, so look or scroll through until we leave the DDP and go to BUKCHON!

Duuuude. This room was VIBES. I got big ideas, man. Big fucking “Henry, hear me out” ideas. Sheeeeeesh.

I reallllly liked the (SM artists) art in this room!!

DO I HAVE ROOM FOR A CENTERPIECE LIKE THIS IN MY HOUSE?!?!

“Henry, stand there. No, don’t worry about what it says.”

(It says FOOL, hahaha. I was so giddy when I found the letters for this.)

I also need to have a telephone booth / decompressing room in my house now too.

I dunno, some random couch.

I was really pissed though because there was a giant screen in this big open room with a sitting area/bleachers sort of but the videos that were playing didn’t match the songs that were also playing in the room!? Like, we walked in and NCT127’s “Kick It” video was proudly playing but the song was definitely…not that. It was really weird and disorienting.

(Also, Kick It is Henry’s fave NCT song and I was extremely disappointed that he couldn’t tell that’s what the video was? Like, that iconic Kick It choreo didn’t give it away!?! What a fucking poser NCTzen.)

Next, we continued on with our search for the NCT exhibition. The DDP is massive, spread out amongst three of four gigantic structures and half the time it felt like we were somewhere we shouldn’t be without a badge or something, but no one ever said shit to us so we continued to act like we knew where we going.

We did make a brief pitstop in the DDP gift shop where I got some cutie postcards that I intend to frame but also wanted to buy so much more. That was a really nice gift shop. If you’re in Seoul looking for gifts/souvenirs that aren’t chopsticks with a design that will rub off within 3 washes, go here. You can tell them Oh Honestly Erin sent you but they’ll just be like, “Cool. Good for you.”

OK finally!!!! WE FUCKING FOUND IT:

However, finding where to buy the tickets was another hassle altogether. I eventually found someone who looked like they worked there and they pointed us in the right direction.

But then we hit another wall, because we didn’t have our passports on us and since we hadn’t booked a ticket online (DID NOT KNOW THAT YOU COULD, KPOP SHIT IN KOREA FOR FOREIGNERS IS LIKE A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE AND HALF THE TIME YOU CHOOSE INCORRECTLY AND HAVE TO START OVER). I was so pissed and Henry mumbled something about, “Oh well I guess we can just come back never” but when we got outside, I said, “Wait!!! Don’t you have pictures of our passports on your phone?!”

(Friendly reminder to have your passport on you always even though seems like the opposite of what you want to do because almost everywhere you shop, they will ask for your passport for tax refund purposes and sometimes just having a photo of it on your phone will suffice.)

So, we went BACK and they lady was like, “OK we can accept that,” because I guess they just needed to verify our names for the tickets because we got legit cards printed that had our names on it!!! But as she was about to process our info another worker came over and said,  in a slowed down “I’m addressing foreigners” tone, “This is for the Kpop NCT127.”

“Yes, we know,” I said, about to return my attention to the lady whose hand was out waiting for our credit card.

“Do you LIKE NCT127?” same girl asked, and again I said, “Yes.”

I just thought it was funny that she was trying to deter us from potentially purchasing tickets for something blindly, because we were clearly a good 20-30 years past the average NCTzen median.

Ticket secured!!

We got to go right in and I’ll spare you the details of it, but it was just a really fun walk-through of video footage of the NCT127 members talking to the fans, answering questions about their recent Great Unity concerts in Seoul (actually the last one for awhile probably because their leader Taeyong just enlisted in the military a few weeks after we came home, which 100% broke me but that’s OK, I’m fine, I’m 44-fucking-years-old, I can endure this haha), and then there was a really relaxing part where we got to chill out in REALLY cozy bean bags chairs and watch some clips from the concert.

Henry was snoozin’.

There was some more stuff after this that no one but me cares about, and then it spilled out into the GIFT SHOP where I bought this Haechan milk glass!!!! (Photo taken later in our hotel room.)

After that, Henry and I walked around the Cheonggyecheon stream for a bit.

Then we took the subway to the Bukchon Hanok Village area because we hadn’t been there yet on this trip and, yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also beautiful. There’s a bakery there called Layered that I wanted to try but when we got there, there was a pretty solid line out front for dine-in, so after standing there for a few minutes, I was like, “Look, we’re going to be here on Monday morning, let’s just do this then” and Henry was like WORKS FOR ME because if there is one thing he can NOT get behind, it’s queuing up for ANY type of food. He would rather just go and get the next best thing even if it’s like 8 tiers below what the line was for. His palate knows no difference.

We ended up at Machi Machi, which was fine!

Also quite crowded though. But first we had to select our treats and order our drinks. I was excited because there were two American-sounding guys in front of me who had no clue how this worked and I got to help them but saying, “Um, I think you need to take a tray from down there and also a pair of tongs….” but really I just wanted them to speed it the FUCK up because they were blocking the trays.

I mean, but also I was excited to help.

Let’s go with that.

We got salt bread (it was OK), an Earl Gray madeleine (delicioso), and whatever that pistachio croissant looking thing was (other then DELECTABLE).

It was a struggle to find somewhere to sit though. We ended up sitting in this super-low to the ground banquette right across from the restroom and it was so uncomfortable. I was like, “I cannot sit here and eat without hunching over like a fucking old hag” so when a couple abandoned their spot at a high-top bar table thing, I ran over and claimed it while Henry went back down to grab our drinks. Everything was much better after that. But yo, this cafe had two (large) floors of seating, a (large) outdoor balcony, and a bunch of tables outside on ground level. Almost completely at capacity!

I somehow didn’t know this was acceptable until recently, but it is perfectly fine to go into a cafe, claim an open table with your stuff, and THEN go back to order. In America, that is a huge etiquette strike, I feel like!?!? Akin to line-jumping?! But in Korea, go for it, I guess. I’m not sure how OK that is for foreigners, though, so DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

And then report back to me because I want to know.

Precious Henry got a brown sugar boba. He is so goddamn cool.

Then we just strolled around. We came cross this C-list celebrity tree. Only like 5 people were waiting to get pictures under it.

This is another reallllly great area for gifts and non-chintzy souvenirs. Especially if you’re looking for local art, this is the spot. I bought an original watercolor off the sweetest ahjussi here.

He makes the paper himself that he paints on. It’s magical. I love art like this!!

Speaking of art….check out this perfectly placed bouquet that someone left behind.

Namsan Tower in the background.

When I say this area is ethereal…

And when I say this country has my whole heart….

Just look at these pictures and maybe you’ll understand.

I am in some type of agony right now, lol.

<3 <3 <3 Love you, Bukchon.

By this point, Independent Son was back at the hotel so we made our way there as well because it was almost DINNER TIME. Can’t live on pastries.

I mean, I could…

….but I shouldn’t.

Right???

May 102024
 

Saturday in Seoul! I have several photos that I could have used here but I want you, Blog, to see how PUT OUT Chooch looks in real life every time I suggest that it’s PHOTO TIME. I truly hope he ends up with a counterpart that is just as snap-happy as me so that his life will continue to be filled with demands of, “COME ON, JUST SMILE FOR FUCK’S SAKE!”

Anyway! The plan for the morning was to go to Ewha Womans University because it’s been on my Korea list since the first trip – the campus is beautiful and a very popular and tranquil tourist spot. We passed the stop for it on every trip we took to Hongdae over the years, but this time I made sure we actually stopped.

Also, it’s my friend Jiyong’s alma mater!

LOL ugh he hates being this close to me.

I took so many pictures of this because I’m obviously 12.

The way Korea tickles my obsessive personality…I was made to be in Korea.

FUN FACT: The first Starbucks in Korea was built in 1999 outside of the entrance to Ewha’s campus. I personally hate Starbucks so I didn’t care about this but Chooch did take a picture to send to Blake, who is a Starbucks…manager? Something?

This picture was taken right before we got to the campus, where I joked that the excuse I sent to Chooch’s school for his absences (he missed 3 days even though we tried hard to contain the whole trip to spring break, you can’t “do Korea” in ~7 days, sorry) wasn’t technically a lie now since I said he had to miss those days for campus tours.

#MomsWhoThink

Iconic! I have seen this in so many Seoul videos, it was so crazy to be there IRL.

I think they do allow a handful of men in and it *is* a prestigious private research university, which is definitely Chooch’s jam. Maybe semester abroad??

#MomsWhoDream

Afterward, we walked down the street to Dessert 39 because we were HUNGIE and I needed coffee bigly. I didn’t know this until days later when we saw another Dessert 39 but the 39 actually means that it has desserts from 39 countries.

……………

I had no idea while we were there. When I announced my factual findings, Chooch and Henry said in tandem, “Yeah, you didn’t know that?” Ugh fuck off.

Anyway, I was trying not to get distracted by everything in the case because I saw fig bagel on the sign outside the door and was set on that before we even walked in. I had never had a bagel in Korea before and wanted to know, OK??

The aesthetics here were so on point.

That’s Henry’s stick thing up there which he whined about for days because IT WASN’T WHAT HE ORDERED WAH. I guess he ordered something similar but it was supposed to be “in a bun” but instead it was given to him “packaged differently.” Um OK. I tasted it and it was delicious. There was cream inside.

My fig bagel was also really good and actually just what I needed for breakfast. The bagel itself definitely had that “rice cake / mochi” chew to it as expected from a Korean bagel – it was really satisfying.

Meanwhile, some guy who ordered right after us got his stuff first because he only got a coffee to go and we were making the poor girl, who was there alone, get her AM steps in as she ran and back and forth trying to get our shit done, and I just sort of casually watched him take his coffee up a short set of steps in the back where the bathroom sign was.

He was there FOREVER. Like to the point where I was starting to get concerned?! Henry and Chooch ignored me though.

 

Ahhhh my coffee cup! I should have checked to see if they were selling these. Goddammit.

Then Henry’s banana drink that I made him order against his will was ready! Look at Henry, mid-strut, returning to the table with his cuppa diabeetus.

You guys, it was delicious. It was like my beloved banana uyu but loaded up with way more calories – you could just, they might as well have just melted a stick of butter in there too for good measure.

It was topped with Banana Kicks!

LOL then I made Henry go back up and order this corn thing. From their website:

Corn Poisoned Bread

A deadly blend of corn and corn cream! With the savory texture of the corn kernels popping in your mouth and the sweetness of the fluffy bread sheets, you can indulge in the deadly and addictive taste of corn.

Yep! Anything corn-themed is going to be lit in Korea. Corn lattes? SATISFYING. Corn on pizza? BRING IT TO AMERICA. Corn desserts? CORNBREAD COULD NEVER.

(Well, that’s not true, I take that back – SOME cornbread could. ChiChi’s cornbread paved the way.)

Meanwhile, I still hadn’t peeped that guy returning from the bathroom but then some older man came out of the door at the top of the steps! He went behind the counter and based on CONTEXT CLUES, I think he was the manager / owner. Anyway, now I was curious so I went to investigate.

Ugh turns out it just opened up into a vestibule that connected the cafe to the rest of the building and there was a bathroom there as well. So, probably that guy exited that way because he works somewhere in the building.

:( Not very exciting.

And while ALL OF THIS was going on, Chooch was sitting at the table next to us being an utter cra-bapple because there was some POKEMON GO event happening at 10AM in Gangnam and he desperately wanted to go but like….I didn’t? We walked around for a bit after the cafe – we were within walking distance to Hongdae and started to go in that direction but then I said, “Yo, we have been to Hongdae A LOT” so then, around the time we saw some older man pee in a corner along a busy street, we decided that FINE we would trust Chooch to go to Gangnam alone, and Henry and I would go to the DDP.

I mean, the kid was in Mexico alone and is kind of amazing at figuring out public transportation. So, Mommy slackened the leash a little bit and let him go off because if he’s going to be exploring any gigantic metropolitan city alone, Seoul is definitely one of the safest.

That was so weird though, getting off the subway without him and watching it continue on with him sitting there without us, NOT EVEN CARING. :(

May 072024
 

We got back to Seoul around 7:30PM and OK maybe this will sound weird, but it felt like we had back home. I felt this same way in 2019 when we left Korea briefly to go to Japan – when the plane started its descent to Incheon, I got REALLY emotional because I missed being in Korea so much, even after just two days away, and I hadn’t fully realized it until that moment. Well, apparently, I feel the same when I’m away from Seoul for too long. It is honestly my favorite city in the whole entire world, blog.

Sidebar: Henry and I were on our way to meet my sister Amy and brother-in-law Dick on Sunday and I started TEARING UP IN THE CAR thinking about how much I miss it there, Korea in general, Seoul specifically, and Henry gave me a little “there there” pat and said, “We’re going to go back.”

ARE WE THO? WHEN? BITCH, WHEN?

This time around it really left me broken, I think.

OK Erin, slap yourself in the face if you need to, but let’s get back to this so we can wrap these recaps up before Chooch leaves for college.

As I was saying, we got back to Seoul Station around 7:30 Friday night and Chooch was so excited because he wanted to go to Lotte Mart and see the Pokemon area that we had seen without him Tuesday night. However, instead of going straight to the Lotte Mart entrance, we instead went into the Lotte Department area. These are all connected to Seoul Station – lots of action up in this joint. Anyway, the first thing we saw in Lotte Department was a section for Kodak brand clothes. This is A THING in Korea. Even Jiyong was saying that she didn’t understand it when we saw a Kodak store in Jeonju because there was nary a roll of film to be found – it was all clothes. I didn’t know this at the time, but Chooch was pissed because he wanted to go in but hello, you have a mouth? Use it!? If he had mentioned it, we would have gladly waited for him to peruse?!

So now he had the opportunity to go and oh hello, this shit was kind of expensive?! I mean, not enough to give me sticker shock but I didn’t really think any of the shirts or anything looked that cool and I hesitate to spend that much on Sloppy Son who might have outgrown a lot of things over the years (LIKE CALLING ME MOMMY!) but immediately getting stains on his clothes is not one of those things.

And then right next to that display was a National Geographic section!?!? They have clothes too? AND SHOES? I was really confused by this whole phenomenon, but you know what’s hilarious is that recently I saw an IG reel that was like, “Tell me he’s a Korean boy without telling me” or something and it was showing all these Korean guys with their uniform haircuts, etc. and someone in the comments said, “You forgot ‘wearing NatGeo.'” I died because it was a total IYKYK moment and I KNEW I KNEW.

(The reel was made by a Korean person so it was comedic stereotyping, don’t come at me, I didn’t make the reel!)

After Chooch did his Pokemon thing and we bought some shit at Daiso (we needed a portable charger and other boring shit), we made our way down into the bowels of Seoul Station were the subway lives! SEOUL SUBWAY, BABY, I MISSED YOU, DID YOU MISS ME???

There was this vending machine area and one of them had kpop albums! Seventeen and NCT Dream were in there :)

This was a live picture and I could have adjusted it so Henry doesn’t look like the Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish sign, but why would I ever do that. Anyway, this was him standing next to Ive while Chooch looked at the non-kpop vending machine options.

After dropping off our bags and stuff at the hotel, we walked over to the nearby Lotteria. Lotteria is a really popular fast food chain in Korea but we had never gone before because, well, 2/3 of us are vegetarian. BUT!! Before we came on this trip, I saw a video on YouTube where they mentioned that Lotteria has a veggie burger now so we had decided earlier in the day that we would stop there for a late and quick dinner.

(I will tell you right now that I wish I had one of those LONG CHEESE STICKS in my hand right now. They were pretty fucking good.)

My favorite part was spending a good long while trying to figure out how our number would be called – it was a three-digit number but was it going to be, for example and pretend this is Korea: “one two three” or “one hundred twenty three”?!!? So I was trying to prepare myself with both versions of the numbers just in case only for Chooch to say, “Oh, they just put the number right up there on that screen.”

UGHHHHHHHH. So much time putting my brain into overdrive FOR NOTHING.

NOT BEEF, BUT VEEF YOU GUYS!!

(The Korean part says “a miracle that tastes like meat without meat.” THE MORE YOU KNOW.)

Real talk: there was nothing memorable about this veggie burger. It was your standard fast food chain stab at half-assedly catering to the meat-free population, which is preferable to wilted salads but still makes you feel a little LESSER THAN.

Interestingly, I started reading the Lotteria Wiki page and while it’s a South Korean company founded by a Korean entrepreneur, the first location actually opened in Japan in 1972 and didn’t expand to South Korea until 1979! That’s wild. (It’s a quiet Tuesday night, let me have this lame “shook” moment.) And speaking of the aforementioned Lotte Mart, etc., this fast food empire was named after a combination of Lotte (its parent company) and Cafeteria.

Seriously, when is a college going to invite me to teach a class on South Korea? I AM SO GOOD AT PARAPHRASING WIKI.

We made Henry get the Jeonju Bibimbap burger!!! I will let him type out his own review, never mind he’s making me do it. I just said, “Here’s the picture to help jog your memo–” at which point he rudely cut me off by making a THROAT SCRAPE OF DISGUST and said, “Oh I remember it, don’t worry, it was the worst thing ever.”

Elaborate please, Henry.

“It basically just fell apart. The bun was terrible. The burger was OK, but the BUN WAS JUST RICE COMPACTED TOGETHER.”

Well, yes, Henry. That was the whole point? The bun was literally smashed together bibimbap molded into bun-shapes?! That’s LITERALLY how it was billed.

“I mean, there’s not much more to say about it. I’m not going to get it again,” and then remembering we’re back in shitty Pittsburgh, he added, “well, of course not. But ‘thanks’ for making me get it.”

LOLOL.

Cry about it.

“I mean, I don’t know what else I would have tried because I DIDN’T GET TO LOOK AT THE MENU,” Henry spat, clearly on a roll now for someone who “didn’t have anything to say about it.”

At the end of the day you guys, Lotteria could have served me dirt on bread and I would have been like, “Oh well, at least I’m in Korea. We all need some dirt in our systems every now and then.” And then I would just wash it down with some banana uyu or Maxim cold brew from a bag. As I sign off, imagine this is a podcast and it fades out with Henry and I saying various pronunciations of Lotteria, all of which are definitely wrong.

Choo choo, motherconductors. (Or if you’re eating while reading this, chew chew mothermasticators.)

May 062024
 

Back with more Gyeongju action!

We left Gyeongju World around 12:30 after successfully accomplishing everything there that we wanted. This left a lot of time open for us to do some last minute stuff back in the tumuli section of Gyeongju!

But first, it was time to eat! I had seen Slap Pizza on an earlier stroll through the neighborhood and since we hadn’t had Korean pizza yet, it seemed like the perfect time to gorge on some pizza with un-American toppings.

We sat upstairs and I had a nice view of the burial mounds and hanok roofs! Henry had to sit by him lol:

He looks like he’s super mad about it but I think he was actually about to sneeze or something. In any case, he was being annoying. He was so mad because he got a BEER and then didn’t have a bottle opener so he had to go back downstairs and ask for one, but the guy was like IT IS UPSTAIRS, IDIOT WIGOOK. So he came back upstairs, found the bottle opener, and then for absolutely NO REASON thought the buzzer was going off (it wasn’t?!?!) and took it BACK DOWNSTAIRS to get the pizza?!

The guy (I’m sure, I wasn’t there though) was like, “NO YOU’RE PIZZA ISN’T DONE YOU LITERALLY JUST ORDERED IT GO SIT DOWN YOU ENTITLED CIS WHITE MAN!??”

But if you’re one of those Henry Apologists and want to take his word for it, he said that the guy said he must have “accidentally set it off.”

IF THAT IS WHAT HE SAID THEN BITCH I PROMISE YOU HE WAS JUST TRYING TO BE NICE.

Because that buzzer was NOT going off!

And when it DID go off 10 minutes later, it was so loud and nearly vibrated itself right off our table, so Chooch cried, “THAT is what it’s supposed to sound like!!” And Henry was all, “DON’T START WITH ME BOY” except that he would never.

CREAM CHEESE CORN PIZZA, COME ON AMERICA. NORMALIZE THIS.

My only complaint was that we didn’t realize how small the pizza was going to be in relation to the cost!! It was pretty expensive, like $20 for that and we each got two tiny baby slices. I could have eaten a whole one of these on my own, and then probably would have cried about it in a locked bathroom later.

I really loved the aesthetic here, and the pizza was delicious (though unsatisfying) and I covet the blue chairs.

THE PIZZA SLICES ARE NOT THAT BIG!!

Chooch, Practically a Full Blown Man, was still hungry after this so he got a traditional Gyeongju sipwon cheese bread! I guess this craze started in Gyeongju but now you can get sipwon bbang in other cities too (we saw it in Jeonju and Seoul).

Of course he wouldn’t let me try it.

HENRY GOT SOME CHICKEN, BOY.

And since Henry had food now, he couldn’t go into the actual tumuli park with us, and if you could believe it – we actually hadn’t been IN the park yet this whole time we were there! You can enter the park itself for free (sans food, possibly also sans drink I can’t remember) but there is a ticket needed if you want to tour one of the tombs. We didn’t have much time left so we’re saving that for next time!

But would you look at that cloud!? It looks like a fluffy UFO hovering over a burial mound!

Chooch dressed in burial mound green that day.

Yes, this is a tourist hot spot but man it sure felt peaceful in its own way.

It was really nice to walk around here with just Chooch, talking shit on Henry hahahah.

I definitely posted about this previously but this spot is soooo popular. I mean, I can’t blame people for lining up for a snap here, because it’s incredibly beautiful. But….standing in line for a picture isn’t for me….

…unless there’s a kpop idol at the end of the line.

After this, we needed coffee and a treat in a bad way, and Henry had to go and find a post office to mail our postcards, so Chooch and I ducked into this LOVELY cafe that was near our guest house. Tuulip?? I can’t believe I can’t remember.

Anyway, I was happy to get to order in Korean. Chooch got a strawberry tiramisu and I got a delicious, rich sweet potato pudding. Ugh, it was really delicious.

We had a buzzer thing, but before it went off, an older woman who came in after us and was sitting at a nearby table got up and went to the counter. The way she was talking to the barista made me think that she was a regular. But then she brought our drinks and desserts over to us! I think she might have been the owner. She was sitting with a laptop and seemed to be doing work things. Anyway, I can’t explain it, but it was just really nice that she brought it over to us before our buzzer going off!

Then Henry came back and ruined the party. He had to also get a drink but he barked his order in barbaric English, so embarrassing.

After this, Chooch went back to the guest house to mooch off their power supply and charge his phone while Henry and I went BACK to the tourist road because there was a really modern and dare I say HIP makgeolli shop and I wanted to get a bottle of cherry makgeolli to take home. So we did that and then I was like, “WAIT CAN WE PLEASE KEEP WALKING I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE YET” so Henry was like Jesus Christ, FINE.

And thank god because we ended up stumbling upon the best thing ever (no, not Frozen Bride – I just took this because it looked cute!)….

This tiny shop selling Gyeongju cheery soju!!!

And there was a cute shop dog!

The one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that I am oh so sorry that we only purchased one bottle because this shit is GOOD. I am actually sad about it. Henry is too. Regertz all around.

Had to get some last tumuli shots!

Oh speaking of this spot, that morning when Henry and I were walking by ourselves, we saw a dead duck on the path! I have never seen a dead duck before and it made me sad. Luckily, someone had removed the poor thing before we came back later with Chooch because he probably would have been even more upset than me.

Maybe.

Anyway, now it was time to officially get our shit out of the guest house lobby (shout out to that guy – probably the owner) who let our backpacks and souvenirs squat there all day, and then also our son later in the afternoon lol). Well actually I retract my shout out because Henry showed him his phone and asked if that was the correct address for the Gyeongju KTX station and the guy said yes, but then our Kakao Taxi driver (LOVED HIM) took us to some abandoned train station and he was so confused as to why we wanted to go there. Henry kept saying “Gyeongju KTX” and the guy saying “Gyeongju KTX eopseo” (There is no Gyeongju KTX here, basically) and thankfully since he was speaking super informally since we were just foreigners, I was able to understand and answer him and we had a very basic, monosyllabic conversation which resulted in him understanding where we needed to go and thankfully driving like a maniac to get us there since he had already taken us the clear opposite direction. I was actually clenched in the backseat, thinking FOR SURE that we were going to miss our train, and for the first time ever, I actually opened Naver Maps to follow along to see what our ETA was.

Every once in a while, the driver would laugh quietly to himself, and mumble, “KTX, ha! Eopseoyo.” Then he would laugh again and shake his head, like, “These crazy Americans and their shenanigans!” And that was making me giggle quietly to myself too. He was a real character! Definitely a SOLID memory from Gyeongju. Also, I’m pretty sure Henry typed in “Gyeongju train station” not KTX, I wish he had shown me. But he was so mad that the guest house guy was like, “Yeah sure thumbs up brother.”

Anyway, the Kakao taxi driver was a hero and got us to the train station with less than 10 minutes to spare, just enough time for me to run to the bathroom (my period had started that morning, UGH) and for Henry and Chooch to run to the convenience store.

Honestly, I wrote in my journal, slept, and read for the whole train ride back. The only notable moment was when Henry got up to use the bathroom at one point and everyone stared at him because he’s a fool, so that was embarrassing, and Chooch sat next to the cutest college kid who was doing chemistry work on his laptop. Every once in a while, I would see him glance over at what Chooch was doing on his laptop, and it was precious. I wanted them to be friends. :/

OK, enjoy the video compilation of our last day in Gyeongju, featuring Gyeongju World, Henry being an idiot at Slap Pizza, Tumuli Park, the views out of the taxi window before we knew we were going to the wrong place. It ends with Seoul Station.

Guys, my final plea: if you find yourself in South Korea one day, get down to Gyeongju. It’s only about a 3-hour train ride from Seoul. It’s worth it. This city is a gem. (AND GET THAT CHERRY SOJU IF IT’S IN SEASON!!!)

May 042024
 

Look, you had to know that we would find a way to incorporate roller coasters into Mission: Marriage. We had only been to two amusement parks in Korea on our past trips, so we had a handful of others to choose from this time. I had my eye on Gyeongju World because they have a B&M invert and that’s my jam. And then once I started researching Gyeongju in general, it was a done deal.

We arrived right around the time it opened for the day on Friday, along with fleets of buses carting in hordes of school kids. But, unlike AMERICA, this didn’t present a problem. I thought for sure we’d spend all day standing in outrageous lines, but….where did all the kids go!? So bizarre. A mystery.

I actually don’t have all that much to say about this park because while it’s a decent size, there just wasn’t too much going on ride-wise. The dive coaster was down for maintenance (we did know this ahead of time so it wasn’t a surprise) but it didn’t bother us too much because it’s a clone of Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I’m not the biggest dive coaster buff anyway.

But, anticipating long lines, we speed-walked over to Phaethon, the B&M invert. (I would say that as far as steel coasters go, inverts are my #2 after hypers, and B&M is definitely the top dawg in these categories. Just in case you cared.)

Totally stoked!

Anyway, as luck would have it, the line WAS NOT LONG. We did have to wait for about 10 minutes for the ride to officially open, and then after that it was probably another 10 minutes before we got on because it was running one train and Korea is notorious for slow ops. It’s kind of weird because for a balli balli balli (fast fast fast) society, their theme parks definitely run on a different speed. At least in my experience, having visited three of them now!

Another fun thing to note – Korean teenagers are VERY hyperbolic and dramatic on amusement park rides. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the experience, hearing them scream OMMA (MOM)! and WE’RE GOING TO DIE and just generally acting like they have been forced onto this as punishment. It’s hilarious and entertaining!

Overall? I loved Phaethon! A solid B&M invert. Apparently, the layout is similar to Raptor at Cedar Point and I LOVE RAPTOR so it makes sense that this was so much fun for me. Henry was like, “It was a little rough” and to that I say, “You LOOK a little rough, STFU.”

A solid first coaster of 2024! Which I fear is going to be a bad year for us as far as coasters go what with all this college preparation, graduation partying, Kpop concerts, etc. :(

OMG then Chooch and I rode Valkyrie, a Gerstlauer shuttle coaster and the first one of its kind that we have ever experienced. I would have to say that I prefer this over the deluge of family boomerangs that we have been seeing going in parks all over the world! I was PLEASANTLY surprised. It felt like a longer ride cycle too than the boomerangs.

Do you know what my favorite part of this ride was? When we were standing in line (roughly a 20 minute wait), the kids in front of us saw one of their buddies walking past the ride and they began to furiously call him over. I was like, “Oh boy, here we go, happens in every country, the line-jumping epidemic.”

BUT YOU GUYS. Do you know what happened? They LEFT THEIR SPOT and met him at THE BACK OF THE LINE. I couldn’t believe it. Such consideration!!

Yeah, I really enjoyed this. Kennywood should get one! This is such a good family steel coaster and is something that Kennywood lacks, so I think this would be a really great fit for that park. I could even see it going in the Kiddieland section. Why not.

GW’s theming was so adorable actually.

Also? Super clean restrooms. No surprise there.

My only complaint, and we weren’t really looking TOO hard, was that there wasn’t much food available for vegetarians and I’m going to wager probably nothing for vegans. They have a Mom’s Touch and I’m pretty sure they have vegan chicken there now, but the one in Gyeongju World has a very limited menu.

Chooch made me ride this and it was quite terrible. It didn’t totally take me out but I also had trouble walking in a straight line for a while afterward.

FIERCE.

While we were in this funhouse, parts of it began powering down, lol. It was literally like a fuse was blown halfway through. Definitely not on par with the European funhouses that spoiled us, but moreso on an American county fair level. Definitely accumulated bruises in various iterations of this at the Big Butler Fair.

It’s a photo zone, yo.

I made them ride the train because by this point, we were running out of things to do.

Lots of unnecessary train selfies. Choo choo, motherconductors. (OMG SHOULD THIS BE MY SIGN-OFF??? Maybe I’ll ask group chat what they think next week, although I think I’ve been getting on their nerves lately lol. Yesterday, SPEAKING OF COUNTY FAIRS, I told them about the time I was in a LOVE TRIANGLE at the Big Butler Fair and they were like “….ok.” I would have just given them the link to my blog post but apparently my blog is now blocked at work because of MALICIOUS CONTENT but also I thought I was getting fired recently over an UNAUTHORIZED BROWSER issue which is a whole other story that still keeps me up at night, so maybe these two things are correlated and I’m being WATCHED now, I don’t know.)

You guys, while we were on the train, we passed a field that had RMC raptor track laying in it!! So, there was already a rumor that GW is potentially getting an RMC raptor next year for their….50th??…anniversary, but it was still really exciting to SEE THE TRACK IN REAL LIFE and confirm that yes, the rumors are true!! Actually, several weeks after this, RMCD (Rollercoaster Database) added it as a TBD project by RMC at Gyeongju World, so now it’s also on the wiki page for GW. And we saw it!

You knew it was coming….

If a park has a carousel….

Bitch, it’s #carouselfie time!!

It was a cute carousel! I have some video which will be included at the end of my LAST GYEONGJU POST. Yes, just one more after this and then we go back to Seoul!

We really only stayed here for about 3 hours, got our coaster creds (just 2), rode the carousel, and bought a shit ton of merch because their gift shop was pretty cray. They sadly didn’t have any t-shirts, but TONS of other GW-themed items (I actually had a hard time choosing which magnet I wanted, there were so many cute ones!) and actually a lot of really cute Gyeongju souvenirs in general.

“Oh great, more glass,” Chooch muttered as I scooped up a tiny glass Gyeongju coffee cup and also a set of 4 TENNIS-THEMED JUICE CUPS that were on sale for W9,900 so like, $7!!!! They are so freaking cute too!!!

After we left the park, we walked back to the WRONG BUS STOP from the day before, because the area where they’re holding the RMC track was right past that.

Ahhhhh!!! Korea’s FIRST RMC!!! This is so exciting! I already was sold on revisiting Gyeongju in the future, but now I’m definitely going to have to come back and scratch this RMC off my list! (I don’t count coasters, just RMCs lol.)

Dude, pre-2018 I never would have given a shit if we stumbled upon TBD coaster track out in the wild, but present day Erin was dorking out over it pretty heavily.

Anyway, after this, we walked back to the park entrance-ish and waited for our Kakao Taxi to take us back to the tumuli area of Gyeongju so we could lunch it up, buy some last minute things, eyeball the burial mounds one last time before we had to catch our 4:50pm train back to Seoul – you know, Gyeongju thangs.

May 022024
 

Me again, the President of the Gyeongju Tourism Board. In today’s travel pamphlet that has been unfolded before you with such thoughtful consideration, let’s talk about what we did in the morning before setting off for our Gyeongju World do-over.

First of all, I believe I already posted a shorty about this, but Henry and I woke up early that Friday in an effort to see some of the mounds and attempt to get a picture with that rando’ celebrity tree. You can read the details of that here because I might get angry if I retell that part of that day.

THAT TREE, plus me squinting because “early in the morning” meant “sun in the eyes” and – spoiler alert – I hadn’t bought my Gentle Monster sunglasses yet :/

We kept walking around because it was such a beautiful morning with hardly anyone out yet. Except for where spring blossoms were concerned, it really felt like we had the whole area to ourselves.

Wow, I’m so presh.

But the burial mounds, you guys. The burial mounds. FYI there’s fine for climbing them so behave and be respectful!

Also, my new thing is turning away from the camera to spare you the full onslaught of my forced smile.

That sign translates to “golden road” in case you were wondering. And the crown is a depiction of the Crown of Silla, which was uncovered in one of the tumuli (burial mound) and is on display in the local museum there in case you are a royal accoutrement buff and ancient crowns tick your box. The coffee cup I bought the day before from the nice man at the shop near our guest house has a Silla crown design all around it in gold – I love it so much. In fact, hold please, I’m going to make some of my cherry blossom Osulloc Tea to drink out of it!

OK I’m back Tea Club Members!

Imagine living here! Right across from burial mounds! The houses were so beautiful – a lot of the were hanok stays and guest houses, I’m sure.

The amount of fighting that happened behind the scenes while Henry was taking pictures of me, you guys. He was legit the worst Instagram Boyfriend and is somehow an even WORSER Instagram Husband. Honestly.

This was my “point and shoot” over the tumuli wall result.

Back to the guest house to collect Chooch and check out – we were at least able to leave all of our stuff there so we didn’t have to lug shopping bags and backpacks to Gyeongju World, which was nice!

This was a nice little place and I would stay there again unless I get my way and we book a traditional hanok stay instead! (This is to say: I will be returning to Gyeongju World. There are several reasons that I haven’t gotten around to yet, so rest assured this city has a place in my heart now.)

We walked about 20 minutes to a more downtown-ish area where we had planned to have breakfast at a place called TAK! which is DANISH for “thank you” and features Scandinavian breakfast items and I thought it would be wild to revisit the breakfasts we miss so much from our Coaster Crew vacation, but in KOREA.

Anyway, they were supposed to be open at 9 but apparently THAT DAY they decided to change their opening hours from 9 to 10 so they were not open when we got there. Since we wanted to be at Gyeongju World when they opened at 10, waiting around wasn’t really an option, so we went to Compose Coffee instead which was on the same block. It’s a South Korean chain so it wasn’t my first choice, or second or third, but we needed to get caffeine and food and this was convenient. (And, because it’s a Korean chain, GOOD.)

More and more Korean cafes have self-ordering kiosks now and most of them have English options, so especially in smaller cities further out from Seoul, this is soooo convenient for foreign tourists! I’m decent-ish at ordering food/coffee so I could have winged it but it was nice to be able to take our time and peruse the menu on the screen.

I don’t remember seeing Compose Coffee the last times we were in Korea, but a quick googlin’ session tells me that it originated in Busan in 2014 and has recently seen a rapid growth so maybe they didn’t have any/many locations in Seoul in 2018 and 2019. If we saw any when we were in Busan, I just don’t remember. But this place was really delightful and I can see why it’s become one of the most popular cafe chains in Korea. I would definitely go back!

I mean, Taehyung from BTS endorses it so I’m sure they’re hurting for business. I guess I will still include it in my tourist pamphlet.

Right after this, we used Kakao Taxi for the first time rather than take the bus to Gyeongju World again. Kakao Taxi wasn’t a thing yet during our last visit, but we definitely recommend this! Super tourist/foreigner friendly – like Uber, you put the address in the app when requesting a ride so you don’t have to fumble with trying to show the address in Korean to the driver, etc. We ended up using this three times while in Korea and all three times we had super intense ahjussi drivers wearing driving gloves. An experience!

Anyway, it was only about a 10-15 ride to Gyeongju World from downtown Gyeongju and I was SO STOKED to ride our first roller coasters of 2024!

….which we will talk about in the next post haha. 2 more Gyeongju posts and then we will be back in Seoul!

Apr 292024
 

Hi, it’s me, the broad who went to Gyeongju, South Korea and acted like she was the first westerner to make contact. Well, just in case you forgot Gyeongju existed, I’m back with more reminders.

I think we last left off on Thursday evening, heading back to the guest house for a reprieve from the rain and also because I ate too much and then had tipped the scale with a cup of hot and rich matcha and then felt like I was going to vomit. Sound about right?

We left the guest room around 5:15 I would say. I really wanted to go to the Woljeonggyo Bridge which is supposed to be even more beautiful at night and Henry said it was walkable, and that we could just cut through that tourist street again on the way. It was still raining, sometimes just a drizzle, other times in buckets, but what can you do!? We certainly weren’t going to sit in the room all night watching TV. I mean, I’m sure Henry and Chooch would have been fine with that since I had been running them ragged since day 1.

Look, it’s that fucking celebrity tree again.

Chooch wanted to stop in this take-out kimbap place. I still wasn’t hungry after gorging on lunch but I can tell you that after smelling this kimbap all evening, I regretted not also getting 2 rolls and MAYBE sharing with Henry, ugh.

  1. Love that this kimbap place allowed mods;
  2. THAT HANDWRITING!!! I’m obsessed.
  3. The young woman who took Chooch’s order was so friendly. We love Gyeongju.
  4. This was like designer kimbap, you guys.
  5. Burdock is an underrated ingredient. I love that they put it in bibimbap in Korea too – in the States, I don’t think this is a common ingredient but it’s a traditional bibimbap ingredient in the homeland. It’s a root that is good for digestion among other health benefits in case you are wondering and wish for me to be your Google assistant. It’s fine, I need things to do.

I just really liked the look of this kimbap place!

We also bought a box of these amazing butter cookies that had different icing fillings like black sesame, matcha, fig, etc. They were so delicious and I miss them. (*Goes to see if they can be shipped to the US*)

I loved the horror movie look of this place.

Cats! Us! Rain!

I loved this walk. The further out of the tourist street we got, the better the sights became.

Eventually, we ran into Gyochon Hanok Village!

Honestly, I think the rain worked to our advantage because this is definitely the type of place that draws large crowds. And aside from some frantic Chinese man looking for lost people from his group, we barely ran into anyone else in this area.

So I was able to pose like an asshole in privacy. LUCKY YOU.

Then, random tea house!! There was a sign outside that advertised BINGSU and Henry and I were like *heavy panting* because we always have room for bingsu.

We were the only people in the tea house. An old woman came out from the back and fussed over us, made sure we had a table, etc. We were just happy to be sitting somewhere dry and warm!

You guys – they didn’t have bingsu. SUMMER MENU ONLY! So I got black sesame porridge instead. Henry got sikkhye (sweet rice punch – it’s so delicious and I had regertz that I didn’t also order it). Chooch got his schisandra tea that he was obsessed with. Of all the things.

Schisandra.

Maybe Dunkin’ will get a schisandra refresher. LOL.

Ugh.

Meanwhile, Chooch was like, “I can bear it no longer, I must eat kimbap” and dug into the box. I was like, “Yo, that might be uncouth, bringing outside food into a tea house?!” and also, he got the spicy version so it was pretty stenchy. Every time the tea house halmeoni would come back from her secret room, Chooch would shove the kimbap box onto the empty seat at our table, and then right before we left, we saw that it had stained part of the seat cushion!!! I was so mad at him! He was like, “I didn’t do that! That’s not from me!” but then he flipped the cushion over in shame and I hope he thinks about what he did for the rest of his life!!!

The Woljeonggyo Bridge!!! Finally!! Chooch and I walked out onto the stepping stones on the Namcheon Stream to take this and it was harrowing because the rain was coming down hard. I was so scared, and the water was rushing loudly past us! Henry has video, and it’s part of the compilation I made for this day SO CHECK THE END OF THIS POST FOR THAT, OK. No, you seriously should because there’s a lot of stuff from this day!

HIGHLY recommend coming here at night. The hype is real. This whole-ass area was ethereal. Otherworldly. Surreal. It felt like being transported back into another time and I’ll tell you that the lack of crowds really leant to that sensation. God, this was one of the biggest highlights of the trip for me. I really loved Gyeongju, even though it rained all day on our first day.

It didn’t change the fact that we were in such a magical place full of insane history.

That rock says Gyeongju Gyochon Village.

Inside the bridge!

Chooch took a series of HENRY IN MOTION shots when I demanded that Henry come over and get a picture with me. God forbid Henry has to have his photo taken with his WIFE. Ugh!

You can imagine how crowded this place would be on a day with better weather!

View from the bridge.

말뚝박기! It’s like a leapfrog / piledriving type of childrens game in Korea. It looks….a lot wronger than it actually is, lol.

Cats! That orange one wanted to kill Chooch.

Photo cred: Chooch

Hanok are so beautiful.

Cafe time!! EYST 1779 Henry got a BEER. I got just coffee. Chooch got some fancy fruit ade. It came with cheeseballs!

Still working on that kimbap.

There was an American (Canadian?) family sitting behind us – I couldn’t see them but Chooch said it looked like the mom was Korean and they were here with Korean family. When one of the Korean family members asked the kids what their favorite thing was so far in Korea, one of them quickly said, “Salt bread” and I couldn’t hate on that. Because, salt bread.

Back in the tumuli zone!

My favorite part of the night was when Henry thought that we were done after the cafe, that we were going to walk back to the guest house. I mean, technically we walked back in that direction, but the other thing that I wanted to see at night…..

….in addition to the burial mounds….

….which looked so eerie and cinematic at night in the rain….

…I mean, just look….

…was this old ass observatory! Cheomseongdae!

Constructed during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-647), the observatory consists of 365 stones, each one symbolizing the number of days in a year. It’s billed as the oldest standing observatory in Asia, POSSIBLY THE WORLD.

Again, yes it was annoying being out in the rain but this was worth seeing at night. And again, the rain kept the crowds away!

And then we walked back to the guest house, taking some of the alleyways off of the popular Hwangridan Gil. I just thought this was pretty.

Chooch got mad because he took a picture of this first and then I had to take one after him.

This was probably an accident but I’m keeping it because I’m almost positive Henry was pissed off about something – pick something, anything – at this point, LOLOLOL.

This was some statue on the street by our guest house.

Apr 242024
 

After the (correct) bus dropped us off back in the Tumuli Park area of Gyeongju – this is where all of the 23 burial mounds are located, as well as a really popular street that runs through the area, full of shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. Cemetery tourism, man! That’s my jam. Anyway, I had originally wanted to do all of this stuff the next day, which was supposed to be dry and sunny, but it all worked out because the rain kept the crowds at bay FOR SURE.

Except that there was still a small line of people anxious to have their photos taken with this random tree, rain be damned! It was actually hilarious. No one lines up for tree pictures in the States! I’ve passed so many trees like this one on my daily walks around Brookline and not a single passerby stops and gives them a second glance. Do Koreans just appreciate these things more than us, or is it more about getting the aesthetic IG shot?? Who knows, but I will say that it’s people of all ages who clammer for blossom shots. When I saw one couple arrive with a professional photoshoot set up, I was like, “Fuck it, we’ll come back tomorrow morning and try this again” – YEAH, U THOUGHT, ERIN.

But anyway, Chooch took some of these photos for us and you can imagine how fucking annoyed he was, ESPECIALLY because we were supposed to be on our way to find lunch when I spotted other people taking photos here. And, you know what they do, monkey see monkey do.

(The amount of times when adults said that to me when I was a kid, wow, I just had a surge of memories.)

We found a tteokbokki place to eat! I was excited because it’s the type of place where you fill out an order sheet and it was entirely in Korean. Henry immediately opened up Google translate on his phone but Chooch and I were like, “WE CAN DO THIS” and we did! I was happy that the ahjumma running the place trusted us with the order pad and didn’t attempt to do it for us.

*HOMER DROOL* Words cannot express how much we love tteokbokki in our household. Of course, we both slapped the fish cakes onto Henry’s plate. I also had a cheese helmet (my term lol) added to mine, and I was so excited when I was able to translate that part of the ordering options. She originally forgot to give it to me but then she remembered, came over, short of moved me out of the way and dump a pile of shredded mozzarella on top, then ladled another layer of sauce on top to assist with the melting. It was delicious.

We also got cheese balls and that’s another thing that is indescribable. In America, cheese balls would be coated in a savory breading, but in Korea, it’s subtly sweet and a different texture/consistency than our typical cheese sticks / cheese balls. The breading is smooth and just hits different. I would willingly burn my mouth every single day for those babies.

Anyway, I loved this place because I felt like a local being there and the food was so satisfying and filling….perhaps too filling, lol.

This is the popular main street (Hwangnidan-gil) of the burial mound park area – even though it was raining, it was nice to be able to walk down it without crowds. Although at times, there were a good bit of people that would come at us in swarms in spite of the downpour so there was some umbrella bumping in play.

There were a lot of stationary shops on this street and one in particular was playing ALL BIGBANG SONGS. I have some video clips of that which I will post either here or, if this extends to another post, then there. I take my recaps seriously! No skimping.

It started raining very hard at one part so we dipped into a cafe that was set back a bit off the main road – I think it was called Secret Forest?? I got this delicioso matcha latte and we sat in this cozy little alcove area, probably not talking because it had been a long ass motherfucking day, you guys, lol. We hadn’t even checked into our guest house yet, actually, and it was nearly 4PM so we decided to start heading back (luckily, our guest house was located REALLY close to this tourist area and was less than a  minute walk).

Which was great because I was already stuffed with tteokbokki and that matcha tipped me over to the point where I legit thought I was going to throw up. Actually, I probably would have felt much better if I *had* thrown up but also, ew.

Some of the mounds were visible on our walk back so even though my stomach was overflowin’, I had to take some liberal pauses in order to make some photographical memories.

It was a straight shot right to the block where our guest house was located.

Faceless Chooch.

Literally RIGHT before we got to the guest house, I saw a nice little gift shop called Osilla and within .005 seconds, the proprietor of the shop was asking us where we’re from and if we speak Korean. I laughed and said, “A bit,” in Korean, and he said the same for English but his English was wonderful, waaaay better than my Korean! Anyway, what a great guy. He was showing us pictures of himself from years ago when he was in the Navy and was stationed in Honolulu – he “accidentally” showed us a picture of him with some bikini-clad broads twice and Chooch and I were giggling like children.

He said that he taught himself graphic design and a lot of the things in the shop featured his own designs. I bought a really pretty black coffee cup that had a design of a royal crown in gold, and a really pretty flower necklace. Chooch bought some handmade soap (Chooch loves soap) and then Henry grudgingly came in from the rain and I told the guy, “He was in the Airforce!” so then he went over and showed Henry his pictures, too.

Honestly, that guy alone made the trip to Gyeongju so amazing. The further out you get from Seoul, the harder it is to find people who speak English, so making this connection was really cool. I was happy to support his art, too!

The guest house was literally like 2 doors down – no wonder Henry was so pissed. We were so close to making it all the back without spending more money, lol.

There was some French broad sitting in the eating area having a REALLY LOUD Facetime conversation – thankfully she was staying on that floor and we were upstairs, because I don’t think I could have handled staying in a room near hers. She was….really something.

The hallway to our room, where we would rest for a bit, change into dry clothes, and then get ready to go back out because there were some things that I HAD TO SEE AT NIGHT even though it was STILL FUCKING RAINING and no one wanted to walk in that shit BUT HELLO WE ARE IN KOREA AND WASTING TIME!!

So, stay tuned for that. It was actually my favorite part of Gyeongju even though the memory of it is making me shiver and feel like I’m getting a cold except that I actually really do have a cold right now and somehow didn’t end up getting one then!

Apr 222024
 

Thursday was another early start.  Look, this wasn’t a vacation, ok? When we go to Korea, it’s a pilgrimage. A voyage.  A journey. It’s hilarious too because this time around, I said, “Well, it will be our third time there. We can go at a slower pace. Relax.”

Pahahahaha. Ok as if I just lightened up overnight.

Anyway, this time we were departing from Seoul Station and heading to Gyeongju, a city that used to be the capital of Korea waaaaaay back in the day when there was only one Korea. The Silla Dynasty, I believe? The appeal was twofold: it’s home to burial mounds and so much history that it’s referred to as the Museum Without Walls; and there’s an amusement park there called Gyeongju World. LOL – we had to get some coaster credits on this trip! It’s tradition and it’s also where we officially because coaster thoosies.

But first we had to get up around 6:30am, get ready and then head out to Seoul Station, where I had my second injeolmi latte at Dunkin. Yo, this was one of the best bevs I had of the whole trip, not even a slight burp of hyperbole in that statement.

Anyway, Him Man the ‘Meri Can decided to use the ordering kiosk instead of going up to the counter but then he was flailing when it came time to pay and I was hissing, THERE IS SOMEONE WAITING BEHIND US CAN YOU PLEASE PAY YOU’RE SO EMBARRASSING.

At this point, he was scratching his head, really unable to figure it out so the lady behind us leaned around him and tapped on the screen and then gestured for him to put in his card. She basically had to hold his hand from there.

And then when they called our number, she signaled to us that it was ours because my mind was still trying to translate and Henry didn’t hear it at all, I’m sure. I thanked her in Korean approx. 8 times and she smiled and nodded but I’m sure she was like PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE NOW.

It was really nice to have someone help without asking though!

We also got some breakfast breads at Tous les Jours – their salt bread was ok!

This picture is so weird but I kept it because it illustrates what was definitely a moment of Henry mockery. Our favorite sorts of moments! The most memorable moments. We were mad because Henry didn’t read our brain waves as they were generating silent demands for napkins so when he didn’t immediately fetch them for us, we had to actually USE OUR VOICES and order him to get off his ass and get us napkins before the train departed. JESUS!! Way to know how to meet our needs.

“Oh, Henry is so wonderful, he does so much for you two!”

Does he?

DOES HE??

Anyway, don’t cry from him, Gyeongju-tina, because in order to obtain napkins, he “had” to buy kimbap from one of the train station food stalls, what a fucking martyr.

Don’t worry, I helped him eat it.

I didn’t write anything on the train. I know that I read my book for a bit and slept a lot because it was a dreary, rainy day. A good day for napping on a train, if you ask me. (Ask me anything in the comments, seriously! I live for talking about Korea.)

The first thing I did when arriving in Gyeongju was PEE. I had to pee so bad. I have actually never used the bathrooms on the KTX trains because it’s never been dire enough for me to get up and go so I don’t even know what the bathrooms are like. But, since it’s Korea, I’m going to guess they’re pretty good. I mean, you can pee in the subway station restrooms without any concern. (Although, you have to check the signs on the stalls though because some of the stalls don’t have toilets, but these ceramic urinal things in the ground that you have to squat over. It was major culture shock for me on our first trip when I opened a stall and was like WHERE IS THE COMMODE AND WTF IS THAT THING??)

(Just some fun Korea facts for you! I’m not sure if any other Asian country is like that. I didn’t use any of the bathrooms in the Tokyo subway stations!)

ANYWAY! I took a picture of this sign because the water in the toilet was indeed yellow.

After this, we had to buy umbrellas at Story Way because it was a torrential downpour out there. I don’t know why this stands out as such a solid memory, but afterward, Henry was like ME GO FIND GARBAGE CAN and as soon as he walked away, I saw one literally right near where we were standing so I walked over and threw my stuff away while Henry traversed the whole train station for no reason. I told Chooch and we cackled like hyenas while watching Henry meander around like a Sim, bumping into walls, getting turned around, all with trash in his hand hahaha. Henry, ya doof.

But then he finally made his back to us and we were like hahaha there was a garbage can right here and he cried, “I DON’T CARE!” and then his face was all screwed up in anger while Chooch and I mocked him and he made empty threats about us being on our own, us having to catch our own bus, etc.

It’s a tale as old as time, you guys. Or at least as old as 2002.

The bus came almost as soon as we ventured out of the station, and it was mayhem. There were so many people trying to get on it! The three of us ended up having to stand in the middle of the bus by the door, and it almost killed us every time it opened. Oh Christ, that bus ride was CHAOS – people falling into each other, luggage banging into people, the bus skidding around corners at breakneck speed. There was an Australian solo traveler standing behind us and we kept making eye contact and cracking up.

“It’s an adventure!” she said, and it was one of Those Moments that I will never forget because I am a crazy person when it comes to latching on to the smallest of human contacts.

She also chuckled when Chooch and I told Henry, in sync, that he was so embarrassing.

But! It got us to where we needed to go, and then it was just a short walk in the rain to our guest house which was cutely called Ah Ha! We couldn’t check in yet, but we were able to stow our bags (Chooch and I just had our backpacks, and Henry had his man purse lol). We chilled in the shared space / kitchen area for a few minutes while we got situated and Henry figured out which bus we had to catch to Gyeongju World.

Henry and all of our cables, his life’s burden.

Anyway, somehow we managed to get on the correct bus, the very first try, to Gyeongju World. The rain had stopped by this point and we were hoping that it wouldn’t be too bad of a day. The website said it was opened, regardless, and I didn’t want to switch it to Friday because Friday was BURIAL MOUND day and I wanted to see that stuff in the nice, sunny weather, which is what Friday was calling for.

A very wet Gyeongju World! Of course, there was NO ONE in the courtyard or in the ticket lines but we still thought, “OK, this is fine. Yes, let’s do this!” The girl at the ticket booth was very friendly but didn’t speak English. She handed us a map and showed us a list of rides, and some of them had a rain cloud next to them.

“OK?” she asked.

I looked at the map and to me, it seemed like that was saying the rides with the rain cloud were closed for the day because of the rain. None of the coasters had this next to them, so I said, “Sure!” And we paid.

Then when we got to the entrance gate, the girl there took our tickets and held up her phone, which said, “These are the only rides that are open today” and pointed to rides that had the stupid rain cloud next to them. IT WAS THE INVERSE OF WHAT I INITIALLY THOUGHT! So basically it was the carousel and three or four other kids rides that were running – none of the coasters.

I was like FUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK as we walked into the park. I let myself panic and freak out for approx. one minute before saying, “OK, I am going to try to see if we could get a rain ticket or something and just come back tomorrow.”

You guys, they were soooo accommodating and pleasant about the whole thing. I didn’t have to beg, I didn’t have to talk to 7 different people. The girl at the gate smiled and called up her manager on her headphone, said, “No problem!” The manager arrived and walked us back to the ticket window, we gave the girl there our credit card, bam. Refund. No questions asked! I didn’t feel bad about it because we knew that we would just come back the next day, so they would still get our money in the end. I feel like in America, they’d be like tough titties, babe – you walked through the turnstile. Your ours now. Grab a mop. Earn your keep.

Since we were there though, we walked around the resort area and looked at things because you know tourists gon’ tour. Look at this cutie magpie!! I love magpies.

We walked over this stream to get a better look at this place which is apparently just a corporate event hall but sure looked cool. I’d like to have an event there. Maybe a future pie party, once I make more friends in Korea which is my new life goal because on my next trip, I’m having a fucking sunset picnic on at the Hangang, you hear. And it better not just be Henry and me. Lame.

A dreary day anywhere in Korea will always be better than a dreary day in Pittsburgh.

I don’t know what this is but Chooch was the one that pointed it has the same shape as the aforementioned tower cut out of it and then we were wondering if there is a certain vantage point where you can see the tower through the building perfectly but we were getting hungry and lost interest.

Then my favorite part of the day happened! Henry had us waiting for a bus that was apparently never going to come but we didn’t know it until after we spent 30 minutes waiting for it. I was so hungry during this that I made him cross the street (he fucking jaywalked like a straight-up Yinzer, I was so embarrassed) to get traditional Gyeongju snacks from a bakery.

They were good but I was still so hungry and now I was just turning into a little fucking bitch.

Out of focus because my eyes legit can’t tell anymore.

Anyway, it was after this that a young couple strode over and got under the little bus stop shelter with us. At first, it seemed like they weren’t paying attention to us but then I started to get the sense that they were possibly talking about us and I was on high alert because please please please don’t make fun of us, I know that Henry alone drags us down like 87 pegs on the Coolness Ladder without even opening his mouth but I promise that Chooch and I aren’t dumb Americans if you just give us a chaaaaaaance-uhhhhh.

Then, they approached.

“Excuse me, what bus are you waiting for?” the boy-one asked, so Henry was all, “Uh, um, mmmmmm…..numbers.” and Chooch was ready to step out into traffic, I think. Anyway, long story short, at first I thought that they were trying to ask us for help regarding which bus to catch and I was like, “Um….” but it turns out, they were concerned for us because we had AMERICAN STOOPS written all over and they were pretty certain we weren’t where we needed to be.

“So, that bus isn’t coming for 2 hours,” they said, and I wanted to fucking kill Henry but I couldn’t even verbally eviscerate him because I didn’t want this nice Korean couple who literally were so beautiful and sweet that I could have died, to think that I was a monster. So I held it in.

Anyway, once they were determined what we were trying to do, they were like, “You need to catch the bus that will come on that other street” and after thanking them PROFUSELY, we booked it down the street and back toward Gyeongju World where we JUST MADE IT to the bus. Like, I mean WE JUST MADE IT – the bus was pulling up to the stop just as we crossed the street. God bless those sweet kids!!!

I need to point out also that Gyeongju World is kind of out in the cut too, and there were NO PEDESTRIANS walking by us while we were at that bus stop until they randomly showed up, because it just wasn’t the type of area where people are out and about. So, we got really lucky that they were dropped in our laps by the spirit of Korea’s reigning king, Kwon Jiyong in this our year of the dragon 2024.

Sometimes, people can be really nice for no reason. Another moment of our trip that I will never forget!

OK, more Gyeongju Day 1 later.

Apr 222024
 

We’re officially home from the weekend road trip and somehow it feels like we were gone for way longer than 48 hours and also my right thumb feels like it’s injured suddenly so that’s a fun thing that I will need to investigate further.

Not much happened yesterday aside from a brief visit to Hershey Park which I guess I will recap later although not too much to report on there.

However, afterward we stopped at The Soda Jerk for dinner. We ate here a few years ago too and if I recall / I think / we all kind of liked it / etc. etc. Dinner at Soda Jerks.

I’m delirious.

Anyway, when we walked in, Henry asked me if I wanted a booth and I said yes of course duh booth of gtfo what kind of question even is that.

So then the hostess came over and he WHISPERED about wanting a booth, literally WHISPERED, and then seem shocked when she slapped down the menus at a table.

I was so annoyed and Chooch was too out of principle so then Henry started getting all defensive about how we’re perfectly capable of asking for a booth and I said, “You literally said you were going to ask! Then don’t say you’re going to ask and turn it around on us!” And it turned into a thing so he angrily shot up from the table and stormed off to find someone to ask if we could move to a booth and then they made Chooch and I even more disgusted because we hate when he acts like a tough guy who has to do everything. Like bitch please do you know how hard our roles are as “the cute pampered entitled ones of the family”?? It is annoying when we have to ask for things that should always be done automatically!!

Anyway, we got to move to a booth. Here is Henry trying to act mad still:

I tired to move his placement over to Chooch’s side but then Chooch moved it back while Henry tried to play off the fact that no one in his party desired to sit next to him.

This National Geographic tshirt was a whole ordeal. I haven’t gotten to this in my Korea recaps yet but this (and Kodak?!) are trending and the clothes etc are $$$. I couldn’t believe it?! I bought him this shirt after being worn down by his whining because it was the only thing under $100 really. Ridiculous. I was like, “Please don’t get ketchup on your shirt.”

SIDE NOTE: They don’t use Heinz at The Soda Jerk??

SECOND SIDE NOTE: This is how Chooch has looked at both Henry and me for the last…13 years probably. OK, 16.

Chooch was excited because they had blackberry lemonade, as evidenced by the white sticker stuck to the beverage section of the menu, boasting “blackberry lemonade / strawberry lemonade” in actually very neat handwriting, so props to Soda Jerk for taking pride in penmanship. This is a lost art in some eating establishments as evidenced just by walking down our very own Brookline Blvd.

But when he ordered it, our server – who displayed the exact opposite levels of attentiveness and friendliness as NAT from MONSTER VEGAN and appeared to be looking off into the distance for her boyfriend to roll up on his hog to rescue her from this GREASE PIT – came back and reported that they were OUT OF BLACKBERRY LEMONADE. Chooch, crestfallen, said, “Oh…how about the strawberry lemonade then?”

This resulted in a slight huff from this young lady who now hated us and she said, “I DON’T KNOW LET ME CHECK” and walked the whole whopping ten feet back to the counter where she hollered down to another server, “DO WE HAVE STRAWBERRY LEMONADE??” and we heard a disembodied voice call back, “Yes, and we have blackberry too!”

Chooch and I exchanged a look, and then a glass of blackberry lemonade was set down in front of him a few moments later. “I lied, we did have blackberry lemonade” and then she flitted away without also giving me my coffee, which is ALL I HAD WANTED FOR HOURS UPON HOURS as noted by all who walked near me in Hershey Park as I whined about needing coffee and how it was rendering me incapable of walking in a straight line.

Meanwhile, Henry had just returned from lala land. “What flavor is that, raspberry?” Henry asked as Chooch complained about how his lemonade didn’t even taste like blackberry. And then after Chooch said “blackberry,” Henry goes, “I thought they didn’t have blackberry?”

In unison, Chooch and I groaned our patented teenage “Oh my god.” Literally, Henry is always four chapters behind. So unaware!!

Next thing we knew, our food was here, and my coffee still was not.

She asked if she could bring us anything else, and I asked, “Could I also have coffee?” not wanting to make her feel dumb for forgetting it, you know? So instead, I’ll just….reorder it. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe her pet turtle died. Maybe her boyfriend was not going to show up for her on his bitchin’ hog because he dumped her the night before. My tactic in life lately is to be an anti-Karen. For instance, my neighbor was outside bitching to another neighbor about me feeding the squirrels so instead of going out there and escalating it because when I tell you that I am stressed to the point where a neighbor confrontation MIGHT cause me to have a heart attack – well, it might be a slight exaggeration but I did have chest pains earlier today, so – I went outside and said, “HI HOW ARE YOU I HAVEN’T TALKED TO YOU IN A WHILE” and then not only did this remind her that I am a human being, but we both had a chance to bitch about our shared nemesis – the landlord.

“Sorry about that, ma’am,” she said in her monotone (which also had a slight twang, curious for Pennsylvania) and slipped away to retrieve it. And then, “Sorry again, ma’am,” as she set it down in front of me.

“I hate that she keeps calling me ma’am,” I said sadly, really driving in the nail of a weekend full of reminders that I’m a fucking old ass bitch with a kid on his way to college. I hated this weekend. I mean, it was fun, but with an underlying, foreboding sense of mortality.

Dude, I will say this was a great grilled cheese though. The rye bread was pretty substantial. Not as rye-full as I would have liked but there is nothing worse than going to a restaurant and getting served a flat-AF grilled cheese on white bread that looks like two abnormally-shaped Wonder slices that were stepped on first.

“She never brought my coleslaw,” Henry muttered, probably knowing that we wouldn’t care but I had to laugh because our server was SO QUICK to solemnly point out, “Coleslaw’s gonna be extra then,” when he also asked for fries. He said that was FINE but maybe she was just trying to save him monies.

When she came back to half-assedly check on us and ask if we needed anything, Henry barked, “Coleslaw.”

Literally, just “coleslaw” nothing else, Chooch and I were dead.

“SHE HATES US SO MUCH,” he cried and Henry, with a twitch of his mustache, said, “I DON’T REALLY CARE,  I ORDERED COLE SLAW AND I WANT IT.”

Wow, calm down, Sergeant Side Dish.

Anyway, she brought him his coleslaw and then practically ran away. Chooch and I were wheezing because she had coleslaw hanging over the side of the bowl, like she just slopped it there with her bare hands. I wished she had dumped it on his head, but alas, no vinegar-y highlights were administered on this day.

I think my favorite part was when Chooch watched her set an empty pitcher under the beverage thing, hit the water button, and then walk away.

“No way is she coming back in time for that,” Chooch said, and then all three of us were transformed into water-pouring spectators. It was exciting! We were downright giddy over it. From my vantage, I couldn’t see our waitress but Chooch said she was fully out of sight, definitely not making it back in time.

It was JUST ABOUT TO SPILL OVER when the hostess came in from around the corner, started to walk past it, but then backtracked and turned it off RIGHT BEFORE IT OVERFLOWED. “Were you guys watching this?” she asked, totally busting us. Chooch and I guiltily nodded (Henry was probably still trying to figure out what we were looking at) and then she started cracking up. “Oh, this happens all the time!” she said, trying to play it off. “Good thing there’s this grate under it!”

And we were like, “Yeah, hahaha.”

o.O

Henry was in such a hurry to get out of here, but I was like, “WAIT! I need a t-shirt!” Because as you know, collecting t-shirts from stupid restaurants we eat at while on road trips is my new “magnet collection.”

“Jesus Christ,” Henry started bitching under his breath immediately when I cried, “PINK, SMALL!” and then I resumed paparazzi stance because our server was due to come bursting out of the kitchen with a plate of mistakes at any minute.

“Oh my god, you are SUCH a creep,” Chooch scoffed, but I know one day when we’re telling his kids about this at Christmas, at Trudy’s feet (that’s where I picture Future Granda Erin telling stories to her Future Grandchildren, one of whom is always a squirrel in my imagination) he’ll be happy to have photo exhibits to go along with these tales.

Also, the lady in the bandanna tunic is the one who busted us watching for a water pitcher foul.

The back of my new shirt LOLOL.

Also, I tried to get Henry and Chooch to pose for a deranged selfie in front of the diner’s mirrored facade, but they both said, “Fuck no,” and ran to the car.

There were people sitting right on the other and Henry was like, “THOSE PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO EAT, CAN YOU NOT!?”

:)

And that’s all. Then we continued our drive home. Got in around 9PM.

Apr 182024
 

We last left off having adorbs refreshments at Judy Mary before continuing our stroll around Hongdae before heading to lunch at Plant.

I had no idea why I took this picture but then remembered that Chooch made me take this because he wanted to send to his friends because of Halal Guys…? I didn’t ask because I didn’t care. But I’m keeping it because of the pool hall above it. Henry noticed on our very first night that there were pool halls everywhere and asked if they were around when we were here last time and I have to believe there were pool halls here but once he pointed out the first one, it was like every time I turned around: pool hall. I think we saw more of those than noraebang and again – is it just because it was on our mind this time?! I mean, most of them had signage that didn’t like new so I guess we just didn’t notice them before.

WHATEVER, YOU HAD TO BE THERE, I GUESS.

I was excited to go to Kakao Friends because I love Kakao Friends but also because they were currently having a collab event with Wiggle Wiggle and I LOVE ME SOME WIGGLE WIGGLE! I’ve had phone cases from them in the past, but it’s hard to get their products outside of Korea because their webstore is not very foreigner friendly.

I ended up getting a cute Wiggle Wiggle travel pouch, a Kakao portable charger (it’s awesome), a Peachy Boi (Apeach) for Wendi’s baby, and Chooch got a new plush for himself, as is tradition. (The same plush that caused a ruckus on the security conveyor belt in the Detroit airport haha.)

God, I love Kakao Friends so much.

And then we walked a short way to Plant! It was nice being in this part of the Hongdae (well, Plant is actually in Yeonnam I think) because it’s where we stayed in 2019. The purple adult store is still there! The multi-level Daiso still looms across the street! I genuinely loved our most recent hotel and the area but there is really something special about Hongdae.

Plant is definitely geared towards the ex-pats and tourists, as veganism is still not very prevalent in Korea (it’s grown though since our first time there!) and as much as I love Korean food, it’s still fun to mix it up with other things. I was looking forward to putting some healthier fuds into my gut, you know? So much street food. So many desserts. Subway snacks. Convenience store breakfasts.

Chooch and I got beautiful drinks! I don’t know what he got – looks like dragonfruit is among the fruity floaters? Mine was a cherry blossom matcha latte. Good goddamn. I tried to have matcha the fuck out of myself while there. Hits way different that matcha in America. For instance, and this is a terrible comparison because hello, but Henry got me a matcha latte from Dunkin’ today and you know, it was FINE considering, like of course you’re not going to have high expectations coming from Dunkin’ but it still made me so sad to think that just a few weeks ago, I was enjoying high quality Korean matcha, ugh.

It’s fine.

I’m fine.

Moving on.

Henry treated himself to Korean beer and I enjoyed the sips that I kept sneaking, lol.

I got this fucking delicious, fresh peanut tempeh wrap and beasted it even though I had reached my limit after eating half. It was too good to stop though!

Henry got a Philly cheesesteak, and Chooch got a veggie burger which was gigantic and I remember LOVING the last time we ate there but I didn’t think my stomach would love me if I tried to smash that down thee ol’ gullet.

Some foreigner family came in and they were like HIGH FALUTIN’ ya’ll, like possibly there on a medical vacation IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, Mommy looked like she was in the market to add more Gangnam procedures to the punch card, and Honey Baby Girl Young Adult Daughter looked like a dollar store Kylie Jenner IG model. But DAD was the WORST. Looked like the type of guy who is thinks he’s the most popular at Rotary Club but everyone actually fucking hates him and speculates on who cat-face wife is cheating on him with this week. You know that type?

There was a big TO DO over where they were going to sit and I think they expected maybe that the tables should be brought to them, velvet-cushioned chairs gently tucked beneath their butts? And then the dad kept getting up and walking around like he was sizing the joint up for purchase, “YOU WILL PAY RENT TO ME NOW, PLANT.” I don’t know, they just kind of sucked the air out of the place but at the same time, they were interesting to observe. I’m not sure if they were American. If not American, French. That’s my guess.

OMG though, what a satisfying lunch.

Afterward, I thought my stomach was going to blow up and wanted to go back to the hotel so bad to “just lay down, just let me lay down for 10 MINUTES while my food fetus gestates.” But idiot Chooch was like, “I WANT TO GO TO THAT ONE PIECE CAFE THAT WE SAW IN 2018” and then kept saying it was in some small mall-type building near the multi-level Daiso that we had gone to before Plant because Henry had boring things to buy while I stocked up on cute bandaids and birthday cards that I might need for the future and fun tags for our tennis bags. I reluctantly followed him inside but it ended up not being a cafe, it was just some dumb store BUT!!! while we were in there, there was a really fun store that had all kinds of cool street clothes and PHONE CASES by some brand called Flict that I’m now obsessed with! I bought this cheeseburger case and the other one earlier that morning at some accessory store in Hongdae:

Back at the hotel finally! Henry was off at that place getting our marriage license certified or whatever WHICH YOU WOULD KNOW IF YOU READ MY MARRIAGE POST FROM THE OTHER DAY THAT IS OVER 4,000 WORDS AND TOOK ME 23 YEARS TO WRITE!!

I just really liked the composition of this photograph, OK. Maybe I will enter it into a contest one day and then I might win a $25 Amazon gift card and won’t you be sorry for making fun of me.

Waiting in the lobby for Henry, ready to go to KWANGYA which I cannot stress enough was so difficult to find which is insane considering it’s SM Entertainment’s official store that can be accessed at the top of a subway station literally named SM Town. But OK, we walked around, went outside, walked around the building, walked THROUGH THE SM BUILDING LOBBY (holy shit the video screens in there are hilariously gargantuan and the people working at the reception desk have to sit there all day and watch literal larger than life music videos from SM artists…..

…..where can I apply???

Anyway, we split up from Henry and found it before him!! I tried to text him to tell him that we found it because Henry had the portable wifi thingie so Chooch and I were SHUT OFF FROM THE WORLD.

Anyway, if you watch the video at the end of this post, you can see clips from Kwangya but I was really happy because the new NCT Dream video for “Smoothie” was playing on the large screen and it was so epic to experience it with other Czennies!!! IN KOREA.

Meanwhile, Henry was outside looking for a secret entrance, a trap door, anything that would lead him to Kwangya and in his travels, he saw the protest trucks that Czennies sent to SM to protest SM’s mismanagement of Haechan AND HE DIDN’T EVEN TAKE ANY PICTURES.

Why do I even bring Henry anywhere.

Anyway! I bought the new NCT Dream album (obvi) and the cashier had me choose from a tray of these poker chip-like photocards as a freebie and I pulled RENJUN!! He’s my Dreamie bias in case you didn’t know.

“No, and I don’t care,” Chooch said when I tried to happily show him.

Then we went back outside and crossed the street to Seoul Forest! Somehow, it was our first time going here! Henry carried his Kwangya bag like a boss. “Let them guess if I’m a Shawol or Reveluv,” he said.

(No, he didn’t say that. Why would he ever say that.)

It was really fun dialing it back a notch, slowing our pace, and being in nature. There were so many dogs, too!

A random witch house.

I was hoping that we would see squirrels while here, but…not a one.

I bet this area is really beautiful later in the spring.

This park / forest has something for everyone really: sports, nature, deer, play areas, art installations, plenty of places to just sit down and unwind. It was really a great way to end a super busy day.

I said something about dolls at one point and Chooch goes, “Speaking of dolls, how old do you think I have to be before I can start waitresses ‘dollface’?”

Oh my god.

Never Years Old.

Chooch got distracted by a climbing wall thing and other opportunities to injure himself and while that was happening, we lost Henry, who had been drawn to a map around the corner. Of course he’d find a map. HE ALWAYS FINDS A MAP.

the

This was outside of Seoul Forest. I thought it was so cute!!

We were going to try and find something for dinner but it was getting late and we had reached the point where no one could agree on anything, we didn’t know where to go, but also we were fucking tired and had to get up early.

However, we had to transfer at Wangsimni and there happened to be a Dunkin’ there – I had wanted to try their injeolmi latte ever since seeing it on the menu in passing so we went there and you guys, Dunkin’ in Korea? So much better than here. First of all, we also got donuts (those were better too) and decided to just stay there.

It was just like being in a real cafe the way it was served to us! Sorry for the shitty picture, I couldn’t beat the shadow and also I was too tired to care. There was no one in there when we arrived, to the point where I was worried that it was closing (but this is Korea, and I think they’re open until 11PM), but then once we sat down to wait for our drinks, people started streaming in like it was the grand opening. There was even what appeared to be a club of ajusshis that pushed some tables together and convened over cups of coffee. It was so lively!

I think this was pretty much the last thing that happened before heading back to the hotel, other than stopping at Olive Young because Henry needed to break a large bill so that he could top off his T-Money card and said, “Do you think you can find something here to buy?” and before he finished that question, I had a Peripera lip tint in my hand, ready to pay.

Fucking love Peripera!!

Anyway, we tried to get some sleep that night because we had another early morning ahead of us since we were setting off on an overnight trip to Gyeongju!

Please enjoy this video comp from the day now, cool thanks leave a comment etc.