Brunching in Hongdae

There’s just something about brunch that sets it apart from other meals. The easy chatter, light flavors, and choice of menu all contribute to a warm ambiance so characteristic of brunch. It always makes me feel like I’ve started the day right. (You know, instead of inhaling last night’s slice of pizza or having a red velvet cupcake for breakfast.)

I was naturally quite excited when my friend- and supervisor- Camille asked me out to brunch on a lazy Sunday morning. The two of us agreed to meet up at the small cafe I had pointed out only a few days prior.  I’d noticed a line of at least seven people waiting patiently outside Butter Milk’s (버터밀크) storefront. With it being a mere five minutes away from my boarding house, I knew I had to give it a try.

With summer in Korea in full swing, I had the opportunity to take pictures of these vibrant (and alien- to me) flowers I saw along the streets of Hongdae on my way to meet her. I thought these orange buds on the right were immature chili peppers or some related genus before I saw the first bloom!

Of course, we ourselves did have to wait about an hour outside before the hostess was ready to seat us. I believe that there were around 5 tables available, and each was only intended to accommodate two guests. As it’s a very popular place, try to come early. They open at 10am and close at 6pm. And yes, the hour long wait was definitely worth it.

The interior of the cafe is quite homey and relaxing. There were several shelves of beautiful old books along the walls. Unfortunately, I believe most of them were in Japanese (we suspect the owner is too) and so I was unable to peruse any of them whilst waiting for our food to come.

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We ended up ordering the exact same thing! This place is famous for its Ricotta Cheese Pancakes (6,800KRW). These are without a doubt, the best pancakes I have ever had. I don’t know how I’ll go on without them once I’ve left Seoul. They’re amazingly light, fluffy, and the gentle ricotta flavor is only enhanced by the drizzled syrup.

I loved everything on my plate (except that odd red berry in the corner- I wasn’t sure what to make of it). The mashed potatoes and bacon were delicious, but next to the pancake my next favorite would have to be the scrambled egg that you can see peeking out from under my strip of bacon.

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We ordered Lemon Ades (3,800KRW) to go with our food. I was totally blindsided. I’d expected to receive lemonade. Instead, what arrived at our table was more like sparkling water with a touch of lemon flavor. It was the most bizarre thing. According to Camille, she has yet to come across a place in Korea that serves real lemonade. If you see ‘ade’ on the menu, be aware that that means soda.

What’s your brunch go-to?

Ysobel.

Seoul: What to Prepare Before You Fly Out

So you’ve got your tickets, booked that Airbnb, and made sure your luggage fits well within the bounds of standard weight allowance. But before you bring yourself to sign up for “city tours” or “tourist packages”, consider taking the challenge of facing the alien streets of Seoul without a forever-grinning guide with a microphone urging you on like a flock of sheep to the next stop on the itinerary.

Seoul may not be as easy to traverse as Manila (as Koreans normally speak less English than Filipinos do), but it’s certainly a piece of cake given adequate preparation. These are the things you’ll need to have on you during your trip (particularly for the monsoon season)!

LIGHT RAIN JACKET AND UMBRELLA

The rainy season in Seoul runs from June to September. If you come during this time, it’s best to pack for rain instead of rushing to buy umbrellas at the nearest convenience store after getting drenched while looking like a drowned rat. To save on shopping costs (put that money to better use; ahem, sheet masks?), try to pack the rain jacket as well.

PASSPORT

This kind of goes without saying. The passport is essential for a tourist to have on hand at all times. You’ll need it as an ID, at the money changer, and for tax-free shopping. On the subject of tax-free shopping though, it’s best to go to stores that offer instant tax refund. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through the tax refund counters at the airport and I honestly think that the refund you get will not be worth the hassle. I think I came to them with a receipt of 60,000KRW and the refundable amount was around 2,000KRW. Also, you’ll need to spend a minimum of 30,000KRW at all stores in order to receive the tax-free benefit. Keep ahold of your receipts!

T-CARD

This transportation card is your ticket to getting everywhere you need to go in Seoul. You can use it for the subway, the bus, the taxi, and hell, even the convenience store. This is the first thing you should pick up at the airport. I believe there are vending machines that dispense these. You can also find T-cards at all convenience stores. It’s only going to cost you 2,500-4,000KRW. There are machines for reloading the T-card anywhere there is a subway. You can also ask the cashier at 7-11, CU, and GS25 to load it with money. (You’ll only need one per person. I just have two because I came with my family last time and I wanted the other design!) Each subway ride should only cost around 1,250-1,500KRW, and you get a small discount if you use a T-card instead of a Single Journey Ticket.

NOTEBOOK AND PEN

I personally use this small notebook to write down my itinerary, expenses, shopping lists, and addresses of the places I want to go. It’s going to be handy to have these addresses in both English and Korean- in case you get lost and you need help. Additionally, when taking taxis, it’s best to just show the drive the Korean address than try to read the romanized translation out loud. You can also use your phone for these purposes of course, but I like to handwrite these notes.

ADAPTORS

Unlike Manila, the plug shapes of power outlets in Korea are rounded. If your device chargers aren’t, you’re going to need these round adaptors. I borrowed mine from the office, but if you’re here on vacation, you may have a hard time finding these. I know you can get them at Daiso for about 5,000KRW, but I’m not sure where else you can go. Better bring your own just in case.

SUBWAY KOREA APP

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Subway Korea is a life-saver. This is what the locals use to navigate their efficient subway system. It has a subway timetable that receives daily updates. It’s interface is pretty easy to understand. You can input your departure and arrival stations and the app will inform you of your travel time, number of stops before arrival, transfer details (if any), and transport fare.

GOOGLE MAPS AND TRANSLATE

This is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to download offline translation as soon as possible. Half of the time there will be wifi while you’re out on the streets (WiFi ID: iptime, Public Wifi Seoul) and most restaurants and cafes are equipped with WiFi. If you’re worried you can rent a portable WiFi egg at the airport, but I’m not sure about the cost as I myself didn’t think it was necessary.

I hope you find this information useful and that you enjoy your trip to Korea as much as I did mine!

Ysobel.

Korean Skin Care Products I’ve Been Testing

Good afternoon everybody! It’s a rainy Sunday in Seoul. Danbee mentioned that a monsoon will be with us for about a week or two so we can expect some more days of warm coffee and overcast skies. Most people dislike this kind of weather, but I thrive on gloomy days. It’s the closest a tropical specimen such as myself can get to wintry snow days. You know, the kind of day when the snow piles up so high that the city cancels school and you get to just light some candles, put on a facemask, bring out the hot cocoa and watch movies in bed.

Anyway, today I will be sharing the skin care items I recently purchased in Olive Young and Watsons to handle my skin’s freak-out in response to the change of weather. Continue reading “Korean Skin Care Products I’ve Been Testing”

Seoul: Style Nanda & Chuu | Styling the Cold Shoulder

Since I’ve been in Seoul, the residence I’ve been staying in has been tantalizingly close to two very dangerous establishments: Style Nanda and Chuu.

In case these aren’t already familiar to you, these highly popular brands retail trendy Korean clothing, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics. Beauty and fashion bloggers living in or visiting Korea do not leave without making a pilgrimage to these stores.

And I happen to live no more than a five minute walk away from their flagship stores. Here is a collection of photos I’ve amassed over the past few weeks! Continue reading “Seoul: Style Nanda & Chuu | Styling the Cold Shoulder”

Kyoto-Nagoya Station: Trains and Manga

When the train stations look like airports and the subway looks like a high class shopping mall, you realize that your standards for infrastructure and innovation will never be the same again. Muji and UNIQLO were definite culprits for the havoc I wreaked on my savings account. But in truth, my greatest weakness was the drugstore. Continue reading “Kyoto-Nagoya Station: Trains and Manga”

Kyoto: Gion District, Kyoto Tower

Leaving the charming geisha district of Kyoto was not easy. All the little streets and traditional Japanese architecture beckoned us to stay. I could feel the culture slipping away as the quiet town of yukata and kimono clad-citizens began melting into a more modern setting. Continue reading “Kyoto: Gion District, Kyoto Tower”

Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji Temple, Yasaka Shrine

The first thing I caught sight of upon entering the Kinkakuji complex was this beautiful amber-hued tree. I knew to expect a golden pavilion, but I wasn’t expecting to have the surrounding fauna garbed in the same expensive manner! Continue reading “Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji Temple, Yasaka Shrine”

Arashiyama: Bamboo Grove, Kimono Forest

I really had hoped to arrive at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove by 8 am and evade the demon hordes of tourists. Due to a combination of factors, that plan failed miserably. And so we were greeted by a cacophony by all manner of people come from all over the globe. The worst part was when a woman dressed as a geisha began walking through to take pictures with people. She would stop after about 3 paces to pose for photos and the people just coming. The congestion was ridiculous. Despite all, the majesty of the infinite bamboo stalks disappearing into the clear sky could not be discounted. Continue reading “Arashiyama: Bamboo Grove, Kimono Forest”

Arashiyama: Sagano Torokko, Tenryu-ji Temple

I must say: dragging my family from airport to train station to bus terminal to bus stop to Airbnb to train station and further through the streets of Arashiyama was a logistical nightmare. But as soon as we scrambled aboard the Sagano Romantic Train with a good 20 seconds left to spare, my ill-contained ire flew to the winds much like most of our hard cash. Continue reading “Arashiyama: Sagano Torokko, Tenryu-ji Temple”