1. I like how every shaved ice place is known for a certain kind of shaved ice. It’s never just, “You have to try to the bingsoo here.” It’s “the chocolate bingsoo,” or “the strawberry bingsoo,” or in the picture above, “the wheat germ, almond, and mochi bingsoo.” Every place offers something special.
2. We met up with Sarah for breakfast, and debriefed our trip to the DMZ. Sarah is very passionate about the things that are happening in North Korea, and we talked about how Korea’s history is very similar to Israel’s – the split, the corruption, and the hope of reunification one day. Sarah always reminds me that we need to hope that things like this will happen sooner than later, and I think it’s important for non-Koreans to also pray for reunification and for what will happen when North Korea finally opens their gates. I want to be a part of praying and dreaming for better things that will come in our world.
3. I came across this watch shop in Bukchon that specializes in handmade, antique-looking watches, and they even have a section where you can customize your own watch. I love finding niche products like this, because you know that the owners are extremely passionate about what they are doing. The idea of having fewer, better things still lives on.
4. We explored some of the older parts of Seoul, and it was incredible! They have done such a good job of preserving these parts, and in the area we went to visit, there were still people living in the houses. The buildings have been repurposed a bit to suit modern days better, as opposed to being knocked down and built overtop. At every corner, there are culture centres where you can take workshops and learn to make things like traditional Korean dolls or wooden frames. It’s beautiful how traditional culture is so alive and well here.
5. Melissa took us to Hongdae, which is the “hipster” part of town. It’s close to an art school so there is street art everywhere, and tons of things to see and do in the area. It was so great to hang out with someone who is just as passionate about food (especially shaved ice, haha) and shopping as I am.
6. As I mentioned before, ice cream is VERY tall here.
7. Even when I am city hopping and living with inconsistency, I love being able to create things that are habitual, even if it’s for a short amount of time. Every morning in Seoul, I would get breakfast at Paris Baguette, where the bread would still be warm as I picked it up, go to 7-11 to get banana milk (with a straw, obviously), and then bring it back to our hotel room to eat before heading out for the day. I wish we stayed long enough so I could have tried every single type of bread they made.
8. “Often, people come to Seoul and never leave.”
We have been in Seoul for 3 days already (it’s flying by like crazy!) and here are some of my experiences so far:
1. Coming from a Hong Kong background, we don’t really like spicy food very much, because Hong Kong food is very mild. Our friends have been trying our best to cater to our tastebuds, because it’s very hard to find good Korean food that’s not spicy, and they’ve been doing a really amazing job. Ralph took us out for Korean BBQ with beer and soju last night, and it was great! Today I even put a little bit of hot sauce in my Bibimbap (because it really is bland without it) and maybe one day I will learn to love spicy food the way my Korean friends do.
2. Sarah took us to a huge book and stationary store called Kyobo Book Centre, and there was an overwhelming amount of beautiful stationary at extremely affordable prices! I bought my weight in journals and notebooks (many of them floral print, of course), and I will probably have to take them all as a carry-on when we get on the plane, because they will most definitely put my suitcase over the weight limit. I left dreaming about one day owning a stationary store or maybe even designing notebooks and journals! That would be the most incredible job.
3. There are mirrors everywhere in Seoul. There are mirrors on the street, in the subway stations, and even in the backs of bathroom stalls so you can look at yourself while you pee.
4. We had a frozen yogurt fruit shaved ice at Red Mango & Cacao Green! It has all my favourite foods, except ice cream. Good thing it didn’t, because I would never leave Korea if it did.
5. Ice cream is very tall here. I like that.
6. “You draw community and people around you like a cornerstone to be built upon. That’s not only true in Vancouver, but something you take with you wherever you go in the world.”
7. Today, we went to Nami Island, which is the equivalent of going down a Korean rabbit hole. It’s where the famous Korean drama, Winter Sonata was filmed, so there are little snowman characters everywhere. Here are some things about Nami Island that we discovered today:
– There are two ways to get there: taking a ferry or zip-lining.
– If it’s ever been a dream of yours to ride in a swan boat (for example, if you are Sarah Suk), then this is the place to be.
– If you like ostriches, this is also the place for you.
– If you like to tandem bike or tandem golf cart, this is a really great place for it.
– It’s a very kid-friendly island to visit, except for one ginormous, awkwardly proportioned nude statue that will make you uncomfortable but is actually a good landmark for when you get lost.
– They need to hire somebody new to make their maps for them.
In conclusion: Nami Island is a very strange place and a place that seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, but it’s fun for a day trip!
8. We also went to Petite France, which is a little village based off the book, The Little Prince. I’ve never read it, but now that I’ve been here, I am planning on buying the book and reading it when I get back to Canada. The kaleidoscopic colors of all the houses made me feel like I was walk around in a picture book, and its cuteness level definitely maxed out when we passed by a bunch of bunnies. Strangely enough, there were no baguettes to be found.
9. I also went to Paris today! And Sarah came to visit me!
10. I finally tried banana milk, and I don’t ever want to drink regular milk again.
11. Both Sarah and I bought large, nerdy glasses during our time in Asia. We call it reverse metamorphosis.
We arrived in Seoul today, and of course, the first person I had to see was Ralph! When we were in high school, we would sit in the hallways (with our juice boxes and lunch kits) and dream about one day going to Asia together. He would share stories about Korea, and I would tell him about Hong Kong, and we would talk endlessly about what it would be like to visit one another in our motherlands. Today, that dream finally came true! We’ve been to California and Europe together, but still, today felt so special, because it was something that seemed so impossible when we were two little munchkins in Gr. 9. Even though I caught a midnight flight and couldn’t sleep in my hotel room (my eyes are drooping as I’m typing this), I was all smiles this afternoon sitting across from him in a coffee shop in the middle of Seoul. Here’s to holding onto hope and having the best friend beside you to dream with.