Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mini-trip to Hongdae Seoul

A couple of weekends ago, some friends of ours were heading up to Hongdae to stay at the Kimchi Hostel for a few days before their plane left for Australia. They had been to Hongdae several times before and agreed to show us around and hang out for the day.  

That morning, we got our usual backpack of supplies together and headed out. It was a lovely, warm afternoon  I was pleased that I could leave my bulky coat at home on this adventure.

Stupid card!
After a quick stop at a 7-eleven for water and snacks, our group of four headed underground to catch the next train to Seoul. We had a little trouble with the underground train this time. Hyper couldn't seem to get his card to work so he ended up getting stuck at every gate and having to get an employee let him through. After getting stuck a dozen times or so, he decided it was time for a new card. I thought it was hilarious! (I modified the image because he doesn't like his photo being put on my blog.)

Directions to the hostel
When we arrived in Hongdae, we went straight to the hostel to drop off our companion's luggage. At first we couldn't find the building and we had to circle back a few times. The houses in the quiet subdivision reminded me of cute little villas. I went on the hostel tour with them, I had never been in a hostel before. They are definitely not as scary as I thought. There is even a separate dorm just for women in this hostel which I liked very much. Paying under 20$ per night for a clean place to sleep with free internet is a deal I plan on taking advantage of in my future travels in other countries.

The hostel was located across the highway from the main area of Hongdae. Once we crossed the underpass I was wowed by the instant change. The amount of people that seemed to pop up out of nowhere took me by surprise. It kind of reminded me of a zombie herd from HBO's 'The Walking Dead'.  

Quiet Street
There were people and street vendors all around us. Cars were trying to maneuver through the hoard of people and scooters were zooming past in every direction. Hongdae is definitely the craziest place I've seen so far in Seoul! 

We decided to look around for a place to eat. Every restaurant we passed by smelt delicious! There were restaurants of all kinds, everything from Japanese food to Taco Bell. We decided we were in the mood for burgers. The smell of a particular burger place drew us in. 

'The Joe' had a nice atmosphere and decorations. The best part was we could order in English! If you know me, you know I am picky when it comes to burgers. I absolutely hate mayo, pickles, relish and mustard. Tomatoes, cheese and onions, I can live with however. Being able to custom order my burger was something I missed terribly. 

'The Joe' builds their burgers from scratch and they taste amazing! I ordered the mushroom burger. It came with potato wedges and a drink. Excellent, warm, salty, delicious, wedges!   

The Joe Menu
Wall art displaying the many burger choices

Once our tummies were full, we walked around and explored some more. There were hundreds of little shops on both sides of each street. So many shoes.. *drool*. 

My boyfriend hasn't had much pie growing up. Especially homemade pies. I made him an apple pie last summer and since then he is a little pie-crazy. He took a picture of the Jester's in Hongdae because he loved that they were so serious about pies. We were too full from Joe's to stop and taste their serious pies unfortunately. 
Hongdae Jesters
We went into a shop (sorry I forgot the name) that had amazing wallets made by 'Vegetable Garden' they looked and felt like real leather but they were made with 100% organic material. These wallets even had place for an iPhone and a hole for headphones. Click this link to go to their website to see pictures of the wallet I am talking about: Vegetable Garden.

Hello Kitty Cafe
Along the way we came across some really cool shops and restaurants. Hyper says he is bringing me back to the Hello Kitty Cafe some day. I'm excited! I looked inside the windows and the booths are bright pink Hello Kitty faces! How fun! 

Lush- Handmade cosmetics
As we were walking down the street, I smelt something very familiar. One thing about Korea, if you are walking down a street and something smells good... you notice it right away. Usually it smells like food or sewer *shudders*. As we approached the shop that the good smells were coming from, I recognized the scent. It was LUSH! When I run out of body soap, I know where I'm going shopping! 

Blue Lego man
 I definitely would have gotten lost in Hongdae without our lovely guides. Each street had a bunch of little streets attached to it. With the hoards of people pushing past you and the bright lights flashing everywhere distracting me, I would have never found my way out of the area alone. One little street we came across had a large blue LEGO Man just chilling beside a chair... Like a boss. The buildings beside him didn't even look like businesses, it was so weird to just have a LEGO character there for no reason. 

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One of our friends had been looking for a place to get his earring replaced for months so when we came across a piercing studio that looked professional, he checked it out. The employee there spoke flawless English and he said she did a very good job. It was a cool shop that sold not only jewelry but awesome clothing as well.  

In  Hongdae, we came across some nice graffiti art. Back in Incheon, the only graffiti looks like a 4-year old wrote some poorly-spelled English gibberish on a wall to be rebellious. It was refreshing to see some bright colors and actual art for once.  

 My favorite part of Hongdae is the street vendors. They are everywhere! One whole street was devoted to jewelry vendors, there was some very nice handmade pieces there. I wish I had bought a couple pairs of earrings as souvenirs for people back home. I hope I can find the same street if we ever return to Hongdae. 

Koreans aren't the best at translating into English. I love coming across strangely named places, it gets me every time. I thought my reader's would enjoy the name of a bar we came across. Beer Space. No, it's not a Star Wars themed bar, just a regular bar with a strange name:
Top right hand corner: Beer Space
Another personal favorite. Ho Bar. That's not even the best part. There are several Ho Bars all over Hongdae so they named them appropriately to tell the difference. Ho Bar I, Ho Bar II, Ho Bar III, etc.This Ho Bar is on the same street as the Hello Kitty Cafe.

Ho Bar
This one is sure to make you giggle. Welcome to 'FuckFake'. Located right underneath the restaurant 'Cats Living.' I'm not 100 percent sure on this, but we were told that Cats Living was a restaurant that had real living cats there roaming around that you could chill with and pet. Cute idea or really bad health hazard? Both maybe? 

Cats Living on top of FuckFake
I promised a friend I would try and post more videos so here is one of a fun mechanical noodle outside one of the many restaurants. Hyper was enthralled by it (his voice on the video). Small minds and whatnot. ;) 

Street vendors of every kind can be found all around Korea, even in Incheon, the small city where I live, we see street vendors selling fresh fruit or Korean street foods. In Hongdae the food looked and smelt much better than the food from the vendors in other cities I've been to. I took a picture of one of the stands so you could see the different types of food available.

Street food vendor

People hoards

As the sun set and night time approached it seemed as though the streets were getting even more crowded. Hongdae is kind of known as a party town so I assume the influx of people had something to do with the night time club scene warming up.

After walking around for hours, we were in a snacking mood. We were told by our friends that we had to try a special pastry while in town and this seemed like the perfect time to grab it. One way to know that the food is decent at a street vendor is that you have to wait in a long line to get to it. The vendor that they took us to had an especially long line. It's nice that you can get good snacks on the go for a handful of change, something like this would have cost much more. 
This is the vendor
The pastry was very delicious! It kind of reminded me of a BeaverTail. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It was sugar and cinnamon coated and had little nuts and sesame-like seeds on the inside. It also had a sweet syrup in the middle. Definitely worth waiting in line for! I wish I knew the name of this amazing morsel of snackage so I could Google the recipe! 

You can see in this picture all the tiny shops on each side of the street with cars trying to squish through the night hoards. I'm not sure what time the shops close at in this country, we left the city around 10pm and it was still just as busy, if not busier than when we arrived. 

Walking around in circles sure drains the energy out of you! I was glad to get home and crawl under the warm covers after my Hongdae adventure.