My favorite thing about living in Korea is the sheer amount of choices I have in terms of food and entertainment. You are never bored, that’s for sure. There is always something new to see, do and EAT! The awesome public transportation also makes it convenient and pretty cheap to travel around the whole country. Back home in NC, most of my conversations with friends consisted of “What do you wanna do?” “Dunno. What do you wanna do?” “Mall?” “Meh, okay.” Ain’t nobody got time for that in Korea. Choose a city to meet in, look up some matjips (popular food places) and crazy attractions (such as a local festival or a sex museum), then hop on a bus or subway. Or you could just go to a random city and wander around – you’d be surprised at how many great hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants are hiding all around you. If you are more interested in hanging out in Seoul, here is what a typical weekend girly catch-up date may look like (the non-clubbing/barhopping version).
I recently went to Apgujeong to meet up with a former partner-in-crime from college. We have quite a collection of hilarious stories accumulated from our young, wild (i.e. stupid) shenanigans at UNC, most of them involving tequila and not-so-wise life choices. Now in our late twenties, we have traded in our shot glasses for coffee mugs, and 3:00AM Gumby’s cheese sticks for 11:00AM “well-being” brunches.
We met at Apgujeong subway station, exit 3, and walked a couple of blocks over to a matjip called ‘Jangsarang’ (장사랑). She saw this restaurant recommended on a cooking show on the Olive channel on TV and wanted to try out their famous “crunchy bulgogi” dish. We almost passed by the entrance because it was quite literally a hole-in-the-wall! (I actually had to duck down a little when entering.)
Here is the much anticipated crunchy bulgogi. Quite good! The meat itself was like a mix between traditional bulgogi and ddeokgalbi (떡갈비) in taste and texture. The “crunchy” aspect actually comes from the fried seaweed on the side, not the meat. To be honest, we barely had any taste buds and stomach space left for this dish because we ordered a full-course meal for two which entailed dish after dish after dish (as you can see up at the top of this post).
Had we known it’d be so much food, we would’ve just ordered one or two main dishes instead of tasting nearly the entire menu. Don’t get me wrong, we finished everything on the table. HAHA. Let’s be real. Too good to go to waste!
The very last dish to come out is the gondeure bap (곤드레밥), or rice with thistle steamed on top. You scoop out the rice into separate bowls, leaving a thin layer of rice at the bottom of the pot, then pour in some hot tea into the pot and close the wooden lid to let the rice and tea simmer into nurungjij (누룽지), or rice crust, for dessert later. It’s better than it sounds, I promise.
After that feast, we walked around the area looking for a good cafe to chill in. We ended up riding a bus for a few stops to the other side of Apgujeong to try out a famous dessert cafe. However, we found out that they only allow in customers with reservations (for just dessert?!) so we wandered around looking for a less snooty place. We found Coco Bruni, my favorite cafe chain in Korea!
I always get my favorite dessert there – Earl Grey Tea cake! So damn good. Hubs even got me an entire cake of this goodness for my birthday last year because he knew I loved it so much. Their Gateau Chocolat is amazing as well.
After a couple of hours of reminiscing on our college days and catching up on our current “grown-up” lives, we hopped on the subway again to ride a few stations over to Myeongdong. Believe it or not, that shot of the sunset was taken on the subway as we sped over the Han River! Subways in Korea go above ground at some stations, which sometimes provides breathtaking views.
Myeongdong is a huge, and I mean HUGE shopping mecca for tourists and visitors as well as the natives. I used to come here every week when I first moved to Korea. There is just way too much to show and say about this place, so I will save that for another post someday.
My friend and I wanted to belt out some 90’s Kpop oldies at a noraebang (노래방), or private karaoke room, which Myeongdong has lots of. But food coma was slowly taking over so we just went into the first one we saw. Just like the matjip we went to, this noraebang was another random hole-in-the-wall dealio.
Another couple of hours later, pumped up on 90’s nostalgia, we decided to take sticker pictures as if we were teens again. This is what the inside of the store looked like – customers covered the entire walls (and even that water cooler) with their stickers haha.
You go into a booth, stick $5~$7 into the machine, and pose for about 10 shots in front of blinding lights. Then you go into an adjoining booth to decorate your shots on a screen with silly stamps, designs, emoticons, etc. When you are done, the booth prints out your completed sticker pictures, and you take it to the counter to ask the ajushi to add coating of your choice (we chose matte) and cut them up into smaller sizes.
Very mature, I know! Sometimes, all I need is a silly girls’ day like this out in the city to recharge my batteries and melt away the stress from work. If you are visiting Korea right now, I hope you take advantage of as many places around you before you leave.
Okay time for bed. Goodnight, from Korea! 🙂