Sunday, 22 March 2015

Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu

Samcheong-dong (삼청동) is a really popular area for tourists to wander around in central Seoul. It's the part of Jongno-gu that contains Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can see old-style Korean housing, and is crammed with boutique stores and cafes. In fact, the whole of Jongno-gu is great to wander around. But what is particularly appealing about the area around Samcheong-dong is how colorful it is, with bright paintings on the walls everywhere you go. There's also Samcheong Park, a massive woodland area with an adventure playground for kids, and a hiking trail heading up towards the mountains.

The thing to remember if you want to visit Samcheong-dong for wandering around and taking pictures is this: GO EARLY. The little streets and alleys get jam-packed with tourists on the weekends and it can be kind of a nightmare, but it you go before 11am you can stroll around in peace. The stores and cafes start opening from 10am onwards.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The poop cafe, Seoul

There are a lot of cafes and tea shops in the tourist area of Insadong, central Seoul. Some of them serve traditional Korean herbal teas. Some brew excellent coffee. Some of them have a rooftop view. But only one of them, that I know of, is poo themed.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Korea Hiking 101

I wrote a post a few years ago about how popular mountain hiking is in Korea. But I wanted to give a bit more information for anyone who might be interested, since it's such an awesome way to spend a day, and it really is so easy. All you need to do is:

1. Go to a mountain.
2. Start walking uphill along any trail. As long as you see other people going the same way, it's all good.
3. If you get lost, just follow any trail downwards again, and eventually you will get to the bottom of the mountain, and then if you just keep walking you'll find a bus stop.

Seriously, mountain hiking is such a popular pastime here, all of the mountains in Seoul have very well maintained trails and are easy to get to by public transport, so there's no excuse not to go. I had never even been near a mountain before I moved to Korea, and now I don't know if I could live without them!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Seoul's Doll Cafes

If you are a doll collector and hobbyist, Seoul is a good place to be! Not only is there a bi-monthly doll fair, the Doll Free Market, and a Volks store in Hongdae, but there are also a few doll-themed cafes where you can hang out with other enthusiasts, take pictures of your dolls and even shop for clothing and accessories.

*2016 update: see link here.

My top pick: Cafe Nine9 Style, Hongdae

Nine9 are a small company that sell clothing and accessories for ball jointed dolls online, and they have also opened a physical outlet and cafe. I really like this place because they have a little 'photo studio' corner set up, where you are free to use their sets, props and lighting to take pictures of your doll. The cafe has a great atmosphere, and there is a good selection of things to buy in the store area.

Cafe Nine9 is located on the 'other', quieter side of Hongdae station. Come out of exit 1, walk 140m and take a right at the large junction. Walk 340m and take a left just before Shinhan bank. The cafe is on the corner of the next street, on the 3rd floor.

Cute and quirky: Alice's Teapot, Buam-dong

If you're not into ball joint dolls, there is a cafe that will appeal to collectors of other kinds of dolls, and even to those who aren't doll lovers, too. Alice's Teapot is chock-full of vintage fashion dolls and children's dolls, as well as old English style tea sets, creating an 'Alice's tea party' vibe. They do a great cup of tea, served of course in one of those beautiful cups, and I think they also serve cakes and desserts. There are soooo many dolls everywhere in this cafe!

Alice's Teapot is in the lovely neighborhood of Buam-dong, pretty far from any subway stations. I discovered it accidentally when taking a long stroll around the area. It's very close to 자하문터널입구 bus stop. Address: 종로구 부암동 208-39.

Alice's Teapot
Alice's Teapot
If you know of any other doll-themed cafes in or around Seoul, I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sanmotoonge: Coffee with a view

If you're looking for a cafe with a view in Seoul, there's probably no better place than Sanmotoonge (산모퉁이) on Bugak mountain. Famous for being a filming location for the Korean drama series "Coffee Prince", this cafe is usually quite busy on weekends, despite being located on a quiet mountain path about 700 metres uphill from the nearest bus stop.

The incredible view can be enjoyed from two different terrace levels at the cafe.