Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Second Spring in Korea: Seoul Adventures

Over the past few months I've made a few trips to Seoul.  These trips almost always include at least a little shopping--after all, it's nearly impossible to resist the $10 dresses that are for sale absolutely everywhere this time of year.

Aside from shopping though, here are a few of the other things I did during my time in Korea's capital city.

Bukchon Village
I first went to Bukchon last year when my friends were visiting Korea, but I remember at that point it was super hot and we were pretty tired.  This year I made a second trip back when the weather wasn't quite as hot, and we had a wonderful time exploring the traditional hanok houses, which are quite the contrast to the modern city buildings which occupy the rest of the skyline.

One of the other lovely things about Bukchon is all of the little shops around the area. We happened to choose just the right coffee shop to take a break at--we had an amazing view of the back of the palace as we enjoyed our refreshing beverages. 

Hello Kitty Cafe
Later in the afternoon we decided to do something we will probably never be able to do back in North America--check out the Hello Kitty Cafe.  I think Hello Kitty is actually something that originated in Japan, but is pretty popular throughout East Asia. This was a trip we made pretty much just because we could.  When you're in Asia, why not?

Overall, the cafe was an explosion of just about everything pink with some coffee and cake that was mediocre at best (and of course way overpriced).  Overall, one trip here was enough, but I'm glad I went once--just for the experience.

The latte art was cute, but the cake was about 90% frosting.  Pretty gross.

Lotus Lantern Festival
On a different weekend later in May we were in Seoul again for a friend's wedding reception.  The reception ended in the early afternoon, so afterwards we went over to Dongdaemun to watch the parade for the Lotus Lantern Festival.  The Lotus Lantern Festival is a huge festival that is held in Seoul each year before Buddha's birthday.  

Only Korea would make Buddha this cute
Fire breathing dragon.  Pretty cool!

The only bad thing about this parade was since we were at the beginning of thr route, it was still light outside as the lanterns went by.  It probably would have been cooler if we had seen them lit up in the dark.

Wearing Hanboks
My friend Jen and I have been wanting to try on hanboks, the traditional Korean dresses, for quite some time.  There are a number of places in Seoul where you can try them on, but unfortunately during our last few trips to Seoul, we've been having bad luck, either coming in too late, or finding that places had outdated websites with incorrect information. On our last trip to Seoul we made sure that we were up early and made wearing hanboks our number one priority.  We ended up going to a cultural center in Insadong, where we paid only 3,000 won (about $3) to try on the hanboks.

I'm glad Jen likes to play dress up just as much as I do because it's definitely something that is more fun to do with someone else.  I should note that while people don't wear hanboks for everyday life, they are still used for special occasions, such as weddings. At times you still do see people in hanboks in Korea, but you usually know they are going to some kind of celebration when you do. 

Kakao Talk Store 

Kakao Talk is the messaging system that Koreans use. It's pretty much a lifeline here in Korea, and is hands down the number one way I communicate with people here in Korea. It's emoticon characters are extremely popular, and easily recognized by just about any Korean person. Jen and I are also fans of these cute characters, so when we heard there is a store in Seoul that is all about Kakao Talk, we knew we had to visit.

The store turned out to pretty much be exactly what I expected. The interior is bright yellow and there are of course places to take pictures with the emoticon characters. Naturally, there's also a bunch of overpriced merchandise you can buy...and of course the overpriced part didn't completely deter us--Jen and I both bought a few items there.

Probably the cutest bags ever!

The inside of the store. 
One of my purchases. I think my love of Kakao Talk, its emoticons, and all things cute is evidence that Korea has really started to rub off on me.
When I first came to Korea it was kind of strange to me that absoltely everything is CUTE, but it's something I've come to love, and will actually miss once I leave.  I don't know if we'll go back to the emoticon store again any time soon, but I'm glad we at least went once!

So, there you have it--a glimpse of some of the things I've been up to this spring. There's still more to write about, but hopefully I'll be able to catch up soon because things are just going to get busier my last few months here!

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