May 272024
 

In the months leading up to our Korea trip, I had been stressing myself out over putting together a wedding-but-not outfit to wear for pictures. I didn’t want anything that resembled a wedding dress and I also didn’t want to do the whole hanbok get-up because I’m not Korean nor am I marrying a Korean so that feels a bit too much like cultural appropriation, you know? Some of my friends were asking me if I was going to do that and I was like “do you even know me though.”

In the end, I ended up buying a lavender tulle skirt with tiered-ruffles and Henry helped me make gold glitter stars to pin to them. I had an off-white fitted crochet sweater to wear on top and purple holographic CAT AND JACK boots from Target lol – yes, literal kids shoes but they were perfect.

Henry brought a button-down shirt that sort of matched my skirt.

I kept putting off this photoshoot while we were there until finally it was the last day. Henry and I woke up early that Monday and while I was getting dressed, I just knew it was a bad move, you guys. I could feel it in my bones – we were going to get dressed, leave the hotel room, go to wherever (I think I had wanted to go Bukchon Hanok Village) and then fight. I hate hate hate having my photo taken and even though I loved my outfit – it was cute and comfortable and completely my style – I just didn’t want to deal with photos

“Look,” I said to Henry, who had just put on the “regular-people jeans” I made him buy for this (his usual jeans are SO BAGGY). “If we do this, we’re going to fight and it’s going to ruin the day. I don’t care about the pictures. I don’t care what anyone else thinks either, I don’t want to do this.”

“THANK GOD,” Henry said, swapping out the jeans for his regular hobo pants.

I am pleased to say that it’s been two months now and I still have no regertz about that decision. We have the photos with our marriage license outside of the Jongno district office and that’s all I needed.

Speaking of, Henry had to go and pick the license up from wherever he left it for the APOSTILLE process. (I already forgot about this part since I wasn’t there for it but if you feel like it, you can read the whole Korean marriage odyssey here.) We decided to let Chooch sleep in and set off to walk to Gwanghwamun Square so Henry could get the license and he suggested stopping by Deoksugung Palace, which is one of the ones we have never visited before.  It’s the smallest of all the palaces but still something I had always wanted to see.

We knew it wouldn’t be open that early but that we could still walk around it so it was a nice detour on the way to get the marriage license.

Well, except that I was IN A MOOD. Gonna be real here, I was being stubborn, contrary, argumentative – all of the things. Just one big ass walking SCOWL. Because I am still a child in that I don’t know how to process my emotions. So, while I was acting like a big fucking brat-bitch, totally spoiled and never satisfied, my core emotion was sadness. I did NOT want it to be our last day, but instead of making the most of it, I was a complete asshole and the only reason Henry or Chooch didn’t push me into the Han was probably only because we were never anywhere near it that day.

I don’t know what kind of magic chokehold Korea has me in but I was an absolute monster on this day. (I mean, I had my moments because not even I have enough energy to keep up that kind of shitty attitude all day, but um, yeah my behavior was embarrassing a lot of times during this day.)

I’m pretty sure it was after this picture was taken where my mood totally turned on its head because HENRY JUST COULDN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT AND I HATED HIM EW WHY DID I MARRY HIM, etc etc. Luckily, it was still early enough in the morning that we didn’t have an audience and to Henry’s credit, he knew what the real issue was and was being very careful with his words, handling me with kid gloves, trying to make suggestions just for me to find ways to twist his words (“OH, SO YOU’RE SAYING I’M FAT” when he said, “Let’s keep walking this way” after I pointed to a cafe across the street that I wanted to go to because I was hungry and needed coffee and really he just didn’t want to cross the street (it was a busy multi-lane road) and knew there would be 87 more cafes coming up).

Basically, I was just being super cuddly and adorbs that morning.

Literally I’m probably mumbling death threats to him here.

I know for sure I was hissing, “JUST TAKE THE PICTURE, DID YOU FUCKING TAKE IT” and then openly raging because he didn’t get what I wanted in the background. When he offered to do it again, I told him to fuck off, demanded the room key, and walked back to the hotel alone while he went to collect the marriage license that he probably didn’t even want any more at that point, haha ughhhh.

As I walked away, I threw a covert glance over my shoulder to see if he was following me because he was supposed to, that’s secretly what I wanted, but then at the same time I would have thrown a fit if he HAD followed me and accused him of thinking I couldn’t find my way back on my own and I’m sure he was more afraid of the consequences of following me than NOT following me so in the end, he went to whatever building in Gwanghawmun Square to get the marriage license on his own and I walked back to the hotel and made Chooch – who was now awake and dressed – go out to get coffee with me.

Originally, we were going to go to a nearby A Twosome Place because it’s been a joke since the first time we were there in 2018 that we couldn’t go to A Twosome Place since there are three of us. “Now’s our chance,” I said to Chooch who probably said, “Wow you’re so cool” in response because when Henry isn’t around, all of Chooch’s surliness is directed toward me. It’s fine.

But then that particular location ended up being in the lobby of an office building adjacent to our hotel so they didn’t have the full menu which allegedly included meat-free breakfast sandwich options. Chooch didn’t really care and said he was fine just going to a GS25 or whatever, so we went to one rigt around the corner and got some small packaged things for breakfast.

I still wanted coffee though so we kept walking and found this really tiny cafe called Aze Coffee. Literally only had two tables but it was fine!

Chooch got a dalgona latte and it was topped with pieces of it so he let me have one without much arguing, probably because, as my loyal and caring son, he could intuit that I was having a bad day and not at all because I had whined repeatedly that I was HAVING A BAD DAY.

Ugh.

Anyway, that was a really nice experience though, getting coffee on our own without Henry who thinks we can’t survive without him.

When he eventually came back to the hotel though, he had a bag of salt bread from a bakery that he passed on the way back and I guess that was an OK peace offering even though it wasn’t as good as my precious salt bread from Ikseondong.

Stay tuned for more Last Day Mood Swings.

May 242024
 

Hi. This is the final portion of our Easter day in Korea, which had us leaving Mullae, going back to the hotel for a quick reprieve, and then venturing back out to Hongdae. The plan was to go to Thanks Nature, a cafe that we went to in 2019 that draws you in with their pet sheep and keeps you in your seat with their awesome dessert menu. We had jinjja jinjja delicious melon bingsu on our last visit and Henry was craving it.

Hongdae is such a vibe at night.

First though, we stopped by Isaac Toast to get a small and quick dinner since we had eaten so much many pastries etc. all freaking day. Henry and I shared an egg/potato toast but I instantly regretted not getting a whole one to myself once I remembered how much I love these bitchin’ sandwiches. It’s the sauce, man. Some kind of sweet mustard, I don’t even know, but it just hits the spot and you know that must be true because that is not something I would ever typically in real life?! Same as “hankering,” as in, “I had a hankering for Isaac Toast.” I dunno why that gets under my skin like when someone says they’re “fixin'” to do something? I’m fixin’ to have a hankering for something that hits the spot.

For supper.

To really drive the nail under my skin! I hate word supper! You can say moist all day but supper is the one that launches me through the ceiling.

Probably doesn’t help that my ex-boyfriend Jeff used to say it. Ugh he was such a rural dork.

Isaac’s got him in a trance.

Ugh and then Thanks Nature was closed! It closed early that night :( So then we just walked around Hongdae while Chooch went in and out of various street clothes shops, trying things on and then not buying anything.

Gentle Monster!!! I immediately found a pair of sunglasses that I liked but hemmed and hawed and then ultimately decided I’d wait unti the next day when we went to the flagship store in Gangnam.

We ended up stopping in some small mall-esque thing on the main street of Hongdae. There was a clothing store called Wonderplace and I know for sure I was pouting at this point because I didn’t eat enough real food and was having a sugar crash and also I wanted something hot to drink, but more specifically, reality was setting in that we only had one full day left in Korea and I was low-key panicking, friends. I hate that I acted like a fucking asshole for an entire hour that evening but the emotions. I had them.

Anyway, there were all kinds of sales going on so every time Henry went up to the pay, the cashier would be like, “This is 1+1 so please find another thing from these special racks” and it was stressful – I got a sweater that I love a lot and it fits me so comfortably, and Chooch got more sweatpants I think, a t-shirt and purple Ocean Pacific shorts?! Really random.

Henry apparently made friends with the cashier since he had to go back up there 3x, and on one of his trips up there the guy asked Henry if he was there on vacation. When Henry said, “Yes, this is our third time here,” he said the kid said, “I hate Korea.” Wow, lol. I wonder if he was there studying abroad? Henry said he was Korean but his English seemed better than his Korean. I wish I had witnessed this alleged interaction.

After that, we walked through “Yongtral Park” to Holly’s Coffee. Holly’s is a Korea chain but it was open past 10PM and I needed warm liquids, you guys. It was a chilly March eve!

And this is how I ended up having my first (and so far – only) mugwort latte. Holy shit. Did this replace matcha in my heart? It may have. This had such a wonderful, earthy flavor – o b s e s s e d.

Just like I am with everything else in Korea. :/

We also got some type of banana dessert to share. Delicious. Korean cafes – chains or not – rarely disappoint.

Well, that’s a wrap for Sunday March 31st,  I guess. I can’t drag this out any longer. It’s time to start editing the pictures from our last full day. Le sigh.

Here’s a video recap of the day!

May 232024
 

Literally no one cares but I was so excited about going to Mullae!! It’s a neighborhood of Seoul that, DARE I SAY, is a hidden gem. This isn’t something that I ever see listed on your standard “Top Things to Do in Seoul” itinerary lists and I only knew about it from the local vloggers that I watch on YouTube. It wasn’t on my radar AT ALL the first two times we were in Korea and I was stoked to explore a new-to-us area, especially because it’s supposed to be super artsy and industrial, being one of the least gentrified areas and still rife with various factories for metal and textiles, and one street has so many of the metal ones that it’s known as “Steel Factory Street” and as someone who was born and raised in Pittsburgh a/k/a The Steel City, I had to go here. Hometown pride? Eh. Hometown something.

There was a Starbucks right outside of the subway exit and Chooch was being a big baby about wanting, nay – NEEDING, to try some dumb thing that they had that I can’t even remember because I really can’t stand Starbucks, although I HAD to go to Starbucks, I would choose a Korean location all day every day.

Anyway, a big part of Mullae’s charm is its maze of alleys so we immediately ducked off the main drag and started to explore.

One of the gallery streets. The Artfield Gallery had lots of art that I wanted to buy but my bank account was in my ear, laughing, “Yeah you wish, sucker.” The artist whose work was on display while we were there is 조수정.

Obsessed.

Mullae has the best murals! I already posted this in real time from that day, but oh well mothercheffers. Cook on.

Shout out to Fårup!

This just in: Chooch verified that he ordered the choux cream latte at Starbucks.

Rust was recommended on every single Mullae vlog I watched prior to this trip. It was P A C K E D.

The process of choosing your treats and ordering drinks wasn’t too bad but it was the dreaded SEAT FINDING PORTION of the cafe visit that gave us anxiety. This place was multi-level and Chooch and I roamed around aimlessly looking for open seats. I bet this place is amazing on a quiet day because there were some really cozy nooks upstairs! Sadly, all taken.

We eventually found seats on the rooftop deck and that was fine by me because it was a beautiful day and it was quiet out there.

As you can see, we had to try their salt bread (it was good but you know, we have tasted the salt bread that was baked in Heaven’s oven and brushed with butter browned by Jesus Christ himself (I dunno what browned butter is or even if it is used on these but I just wanted you to know that I have heard of it and that’s only because Wendi mentioned it in regard to baking cookies one time in group chat at work and I quickly googled “the fuck is browning the butter.”) and then put on GOD’S MENU.

But yeah Jane, I’m not kidding – I am like skibidi* obsessed with these to the point that if we ever make it back to Korea, I am going to go straight there before the hotel after leaving Incheon.

*(I asked Chooch to help me learn how to use this and he said that I don’t need to ever use this because it’s not a word, it’s brain rot, and only elementary school kids use it and when I say that made me want to add it to my vernacular even more….)

Chooch really wanted that thing with the chives on it because it was the seasonal special, some green onion savory croissant thing, but a girl in front of him swooped in and took the last three from the case. He was crying about it in that bitch-boi way of his, but there was an entire cooling rack of them behind the counter so Henry asked the cashier if she could get one for him, and it was a whole thing because she had to first go out to the floor and check for herself that the case was empty, like Henry was trying to scam her into giving him the FRESHEST ONE. I mean, he does look like an entitled douche.

Anyway, all of that and then Chooch didn’t even like it.

My latte was GUD.

fire sex tech zzz, duh. That’s going to be my skibidi.

That was a really nice hang, even though Henry was with us.

And just when you thought we had enough drinks…I remembered that my new friend from our Seoul office – Tomie – had recommended a place that SONG MINO has visited, so I had it on my MUST DO list.

(And then promptly forgot – almost.)

Henry and Chooch were whining about not being able to drink anymore, but I refused to hear it. Cafe culture is a huge part of Seoul! And we were IN SEOUL. So…skibidi dibidi cafe hoppity.

Except that we couldn’t find the damn place. We’re not n00bs to Korea so we use Naver maps like we’re real, verified locals, but the block that it took us to was not it, fam.  There was a Mexican restaurant, a few other storefronts, a sketchy-ass stairwell.

“Maybe it’s down the steps,” Chooch shrugged. I walked closer and peeked into the doorway. It looked like it descended into a dank parking garage. Nope, not doing it.

So then I went back to the map that Tomie made me and clicked on the Naver page for the cafe.

“It says it’s open, and that it should be,” I glanced up from my phone, “RIGHT HERE.”

Henry was already starting to retreat, like, “Oh darn, one less cafe, boo hoo, let’s go get real food plz.” But then I started looking through the customer pictures on Naver and some PRECIOUS SWEETHEART posted a picture of the STAIRWELL and drew arrows to it.

“Chooch, I think you were right,” I whispered, and we tentatively tiptoed down the steps in case we were about to interrupt a scene from Saw Part 187.

Also from Naver:

And then at the bottom and to the left, we saw this ^^^!!

It led us into a small corridor and we could hear bass emanating from the other side of a door. However, it felt way too VIP. Were we too square to be here?! I was so nervous when opening the door, expecting a roomful of super edgy Koreans looking like they stepped off of a street fashion Instagram page to whip their heads around and glare at us.

Also from Naver:

But instead, we were greeted by a REALLY KIND AND COOL barista – he apologized for not having an English menu and asked if we could speak Korean – I said “a little” in Korean and it was actually OK because reading menus is what I excel at in Korea, lol. But then another barista came over and assisted as well even though I told Henry what it said – he had no faith in me.

I can see why Song Mino likes it here!

Loud hip hop was playing and it was a whole vibe. So dank and basement-y, it reminded me of this hidden bar / after hours club that this dude Freddy (Fredrick von Hamilton from Vampire Nation lol) took me to in the early 2000s, pre-Henry where even then, when I was way cooler than I am now, I felt like I was in over my head, lol.

LOL now I’m dying, thinking back to those days. HOW DID I EVEN MEET THIS GUY?? I remember going back to his apartment on the South Side (it was a really cool spot) and turning down his advances and how lucky I am that he was a nice (enough) guy to let it go. Jesus.

skibidi.

Our dranks!

Chooch, thinking my every action is so annoying and an embarrassment.

Anyway, it was a really – and I mean REALLY – cool time. I loved sitting there, listening to the music, drinking my good-ass ah-ah (iced Americano for you non-Koreans), and thinking about how Song Mino was once where I now was.

Life is so cool sometimes.

When we left, we had just made it out of the little corridor and back into the creepy garage when the first barista came running out after us. He wanted to give us stickers!!! I legit almost cried, I thought it was so nice and cool of him! Anyway, I started following the cafe on IG and they followed me back and liked a bunch of my photos from the trip!

What a great rec, I thanked Tomie profusely for that on KakaoTalk later.

We started to make our way back to the subway after this, totally jittery and in need of real food.

On the way, I spotted a little alley with some tables of jewelry set up. I immediately veered off to get a closer look and could sense Henry mouthing FML to the skies. While I was looking, a man came out of a nearby art studio and asked if he could help me. YUP, I wanted to buy all of the rings I saw! But instead, I chose two:

Fucking obsessed. The one on the left says, “My mom says I can’t play with you” – I was proud of myself for translating it on my own, and the guy was kind of struggling to explain the meaning. He said it’s a Korean joke and I was like, “OK great, I’ll take it!” Because regardless of the full joke getting lost in translation, that is definitely something snotty I used to say to other kids when I was trying to be a dick back in the day.

Trying to be?” I can hear Future Henry saying out loud if he ever reads this.

But yeah, I cherish these rings, and they were handmade in the studio where I paid for them! I regERT not buying more.

And, that was Mullae. We only just got our toes wet on this quick little jaunt. If I ever make it back there, it will definitely be on the list of unskippable neighborhoods, right up there with Hongdae, Insadong, Ikseondong, and Jongno. There were a lot of brewery-type places there so maybe that will entice Henry to go back, because I can’t be certain he was sold on this neighborhood (too hipster for him probs) but he did agree that Geukrak was a really great cafe. So there’s that!

Oh, and he bought more salt bread from a bakery in the subway station as we were leaving, lol. Always room for salt bread.

I know you’re like, “Come on, this has to be the last post for Easter Sunday, right?” WRONG. We still have one more before we get to the saddest posts of this whole series: The Last Day Posts. :(

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!