Photography by Justin from last winter
The flight was a little too short to be considered international compared to others… It’s like flying to San Fran from LAX! I feel so blessed to have easier access to other countries now that I live in Seoul. Anyhow, somewhat positively lightheaded, the arrival process at Narita wasn’t all that eventful, but don’t be disappointed just yet because what we didn’t know is that when you try to be frugal in this city, you are literally exchanging time for it. By trying to save a few yen (maybe not a few but a whole bunch), we had to wait an hour on the platform for a train because we refused to spend 3000 yen on an express train which ended up being another 2 hour long ride. We were pretty much spent by the time we found our way to the hotel as you can imagine though we still managed to feed ourselves…
Yoshinoya in Tokyo is a completely different story. Their beef bowl used to be one of my fav fast food options when I lived in LA. Now that I learned that they serve Unagi bowl at the locations in Tokyo, I love them even more.
How can we talk about Japan without mentioning Sushi? So we ended up not going to Tsukiji Market as planned because I’m a lazy butt; however a standing sushi bar near our hotel in Ikebukuro turned out to be wonderful, and I mean like better than all the sushi places I’ve been to in California, New York, and Seoul, and it was half the price. Omg. so fresh. so Japanese. So awesome.
Ikebukuro where our hotel was located. Convenient location where the main JR Yamanote line is located that takes you to all the cool spots including Shibuya, Harajuku, etc.
K-pop fan encounter. There was actually a K-Pop store in Harajuku where they had everything from stationary to Korean snack with Super Junior and Big Bangs’ faces printed on them. It was mind boggling to actually see “Han-Ryu” in Japan for myself. 10 years ago, it was the other way around where Koreans wanted everything Japanese.
Omotesando Hills where a huge whale lives.As usual, we walked everywhere until we felt like we were going to die of heat stroke. Not a good idea when it’s 90 degrees out.
Found this tiny little hole in the wall place where they sell croquets. See that vending machine in the back? That’s how you order. So frikkin’ cute I almost bought something though I was still full.
Nabeyaki udon, the authentic way.
Actually brought more clothes than I needed though my luggage was still half empty but ended up wearing these pieces almost everyday: Rockstar Tiedye Shorts c/c Foreus, H&M plaid shirt (sleeves cut off DIY style), Shredded sweater with sleeves cut off (again), Red leather bracelet from Seattle, Melody ring from a street vendor in Paris, Fennec iPhone case, Nixon watch
Japanese ramen which needs to be in my life on a daily basis.
In Ameyoko wearing a slip underneath the DIY sweater vest because it was too hot to wear real clothes. Sneakers: Jeffrey Campbell Flava High Top
Sorry about rather low quality photos (compared to the “nice” ones taken on our Canon).. just learned last night that we forgot to bring the connector thing to transfer photos from the camera. Bummer, but it is what it is… While I’m planning on doing a huge Tokyo post once I’m back in Seoul, meanwhile, thought I’d share a few photos I took with my iPhone because Tokyo is really that awesome.
Spent the day in Shinjuku and Omotesando today which are known for shopping. Besides the fact that I almost died of heat stroke and my feet stopped being functional towards end of the day, it was a fun filled day doing everything touristy including endless people-watching sitting at Starbucks in Harajuku and all. Japanese surely love wearing hats, the heat doesn’t seem to bother them. And the men sport some sick hair styles here, my purple dip dye doesn’t even get noticed. and it’s really a mystery- I don’t know how the girls here walk in those crazy heels. Really.
The architecture is amazing in Tokyo. Wish I could take some home. Oh yeah, ran into my dream car today aka Prius in mint which obviously got me overly excited. I had never seen one in that color nor have I even heard of Toyota making it in that color so as a devout Prius lover and an ex-owner and mint being my favorite color, it only makes sense that I became all paparazzi on the car. Then the owner runs up to me saying something in Japanese. Caught off guard, I just stood there staring back at him. Then he goes, “Are you from China?” I was like, “I just like your car, and no, I’m from Korea.” I mean, technically, I’m not but I don’t know, it just came out that way because I do live in Korea now. Whatever, so I walked away but with this “dirty feeling,” I think because the way he looked at me and the “Chinese” question just seemed so inappropriate and just off in general. Why does it matter where I’m from? It felt so dirty I immediately removed all the photos of the car from my phone. So yeah, that’s the reason why I just wrote an entire paragraph about something that which I spent a good ten minutes getting excited over, with no pictures to prove that I actually did see it or it actually exists. Man, I’m such an alien.
Japan trip wouldn’t be complete without food, of course. Was craving sushi so walked into this “Standing Sushi” place near our hotel in Ikkebukuro. I had read on the internet that’s where you can find reasonably priced sushi (since there are no seats) and surprisingly, it was really really delicious and cheap! We had our usual including yellow tail, live shrimp, toro, tuna, and so on plus chef’s special summer fish set, as well as miso soup with a live shrimp head in it (I know sounds cruel but that’s how fresh it was) and the total for both of us came out to what we used to pay PER person in the States. The quality was great, oh and can’t forget the do-it-yourself, all-you-can-drink green tea for free. Going to miss this incredibly. Sushi isn’t as easily accessible in Seoul.
It’s hard to believe that there’s less than six months left of the year. My first official summer in Korea has been both eventful and a bit tough: lots of exciting projects yet this tropical rainforest weather is just something that will take a long time to get used to. I thought Hong Kong was bad, but wow, with heavy rain added to the equation, it makes even staying home difficult. I’m not complaining though because it does make me sweat a lot which results in loss of excess fat and stuff (or I would like to believe). Oh yeah, finally got my gym membership. Never did I imagine myself going to a gym here (because it’s ridiculously expensive compared to what I used to pay back in the States) but I clearly had reached my limit to where it (aka lack of gym) was almost making me depressed. So awesome that I get Hot Yoga for free!!
Happened to be roaming around Garosugil the other day and came across this tiny Italian restaurant called Stephanie Cafe. Other than the fact that it was too pretty to eat (I mean, it is pink after all), definitely a great discovery, I thought, because the food was actually as good as it looked. Pasta was cooked to perfection and the beet cream sauce had a creative twist to the usual cream-based pasta. Will definitely be back.
551-11, Sinsadong, Gangnamgu
and… the usual. I can’t believe how often I eat this thing here in Seoul, but I can’t seem to find another perfect dessert to fight off summer heat. By the end of the summer, I probably would have tried every single shaved ice that exists in Seoul. This particular one is from a cafe called “마음은 콩밭” (Heart is at the Beanfield?) located in Buamdong, a quieter area of Seoul behind Gyeongbokgung Palace. It wasn’t as sweet as the other places (which I like), and especially loved that the beans were made in-house.
Ok, enough writing for the day, it’s getting hot in herrrrre! Chao~
…and no, that is not an oxymoron. Seoul is no longer how I remember it from back in the days; it’s full of great international cuisine and cool places to hang (many of them a lot cooler than the ones in the States, sorry friends. hehe). You can just about find anything you want whenever you want, and most of the time, in better quality and taste.
There are a few things that I get excited about. Besides shoes, food is definitely ranked top, especially when it comes unexpectedly. Thanks to a friend who knows just about everything Seoul, I had the pleasure of visiting a new pizzeria in Hong Dae that opened only a week ago.
With experienced chefs and fresh ingredients, great food was perhaps a given.
The grape salad was amazing especially with a huge chunk of ricotta cheese, which served as a perfect appetizer along with flat bread for us hungry beasts.
We had Margherita as well but this Mushroom Pizza completely blew my mind away. If you are not a big mushroom fan however, beware, it’s got a very, very (note that I wrote that twice) strong smell to it.
All in all, an excellent experience. Also helps that the owner was extremely polite and kind, kind enough to offer us a free dessert (well, only because of the friend who’s instantly earned a VVIP status but a nice gesture nonetheless).
Coyote Saloon Pizza & Bar
Mapogu Seo-gyo-dong 408-7 2nd flr
Pretty sure these are chrysanthemums used for tea. So pretty.
Cheonggyecheon (청계천). Last time I was here it was snowing so much I could barely see. It’s covered with colorful flowers and greens right now.
Having four distinct seasons is a beautiful thing.
While I’m a fan of spicy red food, I also love my clear soup and this one we had in Itaewon was one of the best I’ve had: Bean Sprout & Clam Soup (served for free before main dish as an appetizer).
LA people know that we have School Food in Ktown as well but the one in Korea is on a different level. oh wow.
Typical snacking dish (?) not sure what else to call it. It’s called Boon Shik (분식) in Korean which consists of spicy rice cake (one above came with mozzarella cheese), deep fried dumpling (Chinese-Korean style), and Soondae (won’t get into details for your safety). Maybe it’s more of a comfort food since its function is more similar to that of fried chicken and pizza in the states, if you know what I mean.
I’m seeing this type of interior more and more here in Seoul; it definitely adds character and I guess credibility (as all the biz cards and memos leave an impression that it’s a popular place).
I had dduk bok ki (spicy rice cake) almost every day of the week last week and this one has to be the best one by far. Loved how long and soft the rice cake was and that they added huge clams, shrimps and such. Beautiful.
Some egg rolls to balance out the spiciness.
at some random concept shop in Apgujung Rodeo, actually it’s called Boy+. Thanks to the rude sales rep, I’m never going back there.
Burger called “Ambulance” at some burger joint in Itaewon. Almost had to call one indeed, just look at all the cholesterol and oil..
Another great thing about Seoul: you can find these waffle desserts practically everywhere! so yummy
As much as I’m not a fan of sit-and-eat-on-floor-type restaurants, this one was actually quite nice, reminiscent of the historical dramas airing on TV.
In an emergency room waiting for our Canon 5D Mark III. So glad it’s back!
The best smelling thing I’ve ever come across: Scents by Creed. My first encounter with them was back in New York at Bergdorf Goodman many years ago. Despite being a favorite, I still cannot convince myself to shell out hundreds of dollars just for one tiny bottle of something that instantly disappears into the air.
Steamed chicken. So good although the only thing I eat is the noodles.
Tarte at cafe Avec Nous in Hong Dae which is famous for their tarte (obviously).
Muk Shi Don Na Dduk Bok Ki (Spicy Rice Cake, again, I know). This one’s a little different in that you get to cook it on the table. Another really good one.
Lots of dduk bok ki (popular spicy rice cake dish) and sweets. That pretty much sums up my week in this dynamic city that I’ve fallen in love with.
Almost drank it because we were afraid the restaurant manager was going to yell at us.
We literally walked everywhere- just wish I knew the names of the places I was in
It’s hard to find good dim sum in Korea so we ate until we couldn’t anymore.
She must have hated us because we made her open every single thing asking weird questions.
One of the greatest finds in HK: iPhone case that looks like a Bible!
Some kind of meat wrapped in a thin layer of tofu. Delicious!
then walked some more…
Besides the interesting culture, I see mountains covered with lush forests to the right and an ocean to the left.
Even the weather is quite dynamic- it rains cats and dogs one moment then it’s sunny the next thanks to its subtropical climate.
My travel buddies
Sam has been an amazing tour guide. I give her five stars!
Finally got to visit the Han River sort of accidentally when we went to Yeouido (여의도) to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival (벚꽃축제). ‘Two rabbits caught in one attempt’ as Koreans would say. Not bad, not bad at all.
Did a long walk around a nearby park for a morning workout. With Cherry Blossoms in full bloom, morning walk couldn’t be more pleasant. Wish spring would last forever. On another note, strangely and randomly feeling like going to a department store for some reason today. Hmm.
Mango striped top, Sinequanone floral print skirt, Modern Vintage ankle boots, Husband’s belt, Gifted fuchsia leather blazer
After a long wait, spring has finally arrived in Seoul and the flowers are blooming all over the city.
Forsythias (개나리): One of the first signs of spring
What excites me most is the Cherry Blossoms (벚꽃). Interestingly enough, they have always been my favorite kind yet I had never seen them in person up until now. I thought they could only be found in Japan for some reason but they are literally all over Korea apparently. I wish spring would stay forever.
Magnolias in full bloom
Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying springtime. As for me, I’m so ready to do some major spring cleaning!!