Checking out BAU HOUSE: a Korean dog café!

Today I went with a friend to a dog café!

These kinds of pet cafés are pretty popular in Korea. The concept is pretty simple: enjoy a cup of coffee while playing with the resident dogs, or bring your own!

I went with my friend Erin, who’d found the place (located in Hongdae) online. It’s called “BAU HOUSE” – a clever play on words from Bauhaus.

I’d read online that the coffee would be pretty expensive, as it essentially acts as your admission fee. One Americano will set you back around $6, but the fun atmosphere is worth it!

The main area of Bau Haus

The main area of Bau House

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (2 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (3 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (4 of 37)

The dogs would even walk up on the railing!

The dogs would even walk up on the railing!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (6 of 37)

Just chillin'!

Just chillin’!

Two dogs came to vissit after they saw Erin with snacks!

Two dogs came to vissit after they saw Erin with snacks!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (9 of 37)

Erin doing "shake a paw!!" with the big dog

Erin doing “shake a paw!!” with the big dog

Me feeding some of the dogs!

Me feeding some of the dogs!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (12 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (13 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (14 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (15 of 37)

This dog came up to Erin wanting to play fetch!

This dog came up to Erin wanting to play fetch!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (17 of 37)

The resident dogs at Bau Haus

The resident dogs at Bau House

This dog was a bit strange

This dog was a bit strange

...Or maybe he was just too tired!

…Or maybe he was just too tired!

Loved this little furball!

Loved this little furball!

Erin and I loved this dog - he (or she) looked so regal! He was sitting on that stool so still, calm and composed for at least 20 or 30 minutes ^^

Erin and I loved this dog – he (or she) looked so regal! He was sitting on that stool so still, calm and composed for at least 20 or 30 minutes ^^

The little guy again!

The little guy again!

He was sniffing my camera ^^

He was sniffing my camera ^^

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (25 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (26 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (27 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (28 of 37) BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (29 of 37)

A cozy spot under the cash register!

A cozy spot under the cash register!

One of the other customers' dogs; looks like this little guy had enough fun for today!

One of the other customers’ dogs; looks like this little guy had enough fun for today!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (32 of 37)

Loved this dog!

Loved this dog!

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (34 of 37)

The private area/front end of Bau Haus

The private area/front end of Bau House

BAU HAUS - Dog Cafe (36 of 37)

Looking into Bau Haus

Looking into Bau House

Info:

  • Hours: 1:30pm – 11:00pm weekdays; 12:30pm – 11:00pm weekends.
  • Address (English): 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. (Je-il Building, rear entrance, 1st floor)
  • Address (Korean): 서울특별시 마포구 서교동 394-44 제일빌딩 후면 1층
  • Phone: 02-334-5152
  • Location: Hapjeong Station (Line 2): It’s in the black shiny building between Exit 3 and 4. Can’t miss it!
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Vietnamese Food at Little Saigon, Gangnam

For tonight’s dinner, I was feeling hungry a bit early and decided to stop by “Little Saigon”.

Little Saigon is a Vietnamese restaurant located about five minutes from Sinnonhyeon Station or 5-10 minutes from Gangnam Station, right behind Kyobo Tower.

Each time I’ve walk past it on my way home during dinner time, it’s been packed with people. I thought I’d pop in and see if it was alright. Decent Vietnamese food is pretty hard to come by in Korea, as most of the time it’s been too watered down (pho) or is just generally quite bland.

Little Saigon was pretty decent though!

Sweet chili sauce, sliced radish and peanut sauce

Sweet chili sauce, sliced radish and peanut sauce

Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (2 of 19)

The salad rolls/goi con

The salad rolls/goi con

I had intended to just order one piece of salad rolls (2,000w / $2.00), but the waiter brought out the platter, which was four pieces. It was probably my fault because of the language barrier, but I asked the waiter anyways when he set it down. He apologized and said you could only order one piece at lunch time, but went and changed the bill anyways (and didn’t take the extra salad rolls back! Really nice).

Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (4 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (5 of 19)

Stirfried noods with little pieces of samgyeopsal (Korean-style pork belly)

Stirfried noods with little pieces of samgyeopsal (Korean-style pork belly)

The noodles I ordered were awesome. They came with stir-fried veggies and bean sprouts, plus juicy morsels of samgyeopsal, Korean-style pork belly (like really thick bacon). The plate was probably big enough to feed two people.

Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (7 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (8 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (9 of 19)

I tried so hard to get a decent photo of the noodles with my chopsticks! It's hard to hold them in one and and use the camera (sans-viewfinder) though T^T

I tried so hard to get a decent photo of the noodles with my chopsticks! It’s hard to hold them in one and and use the camera (sans-viewfinder) though T^T

(See caption above!) This is one of the pieces of samgyeopsal, which were done really well.

(See caption above!)
This is one of the pieces of samgyeopsal, which were done really well.

You have no idea how hard I tried (and how idiotic I looked) to finally get a semi-decent photo of one of the goi con pieces.

You have no idea how hard I tried (and how idiotic I looked) to finally get a semi-decent photo of one of the goi con pieces.

The restaurant interior

The restaurant interior

Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (14 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (15 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (16 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (17 of 19) Little Saigon Vietnamese Cuisine (18 of 19)

Outside Little Saigon

Outside Little Saigon

Overall, a delicious experience!

Directions:

  • Gangnam Station (Line 2, Exit 9): Walk straight down the clubbing/bar street for about 5-10 minutes until you see the big Paris Baguette Café. Hang a left, and Little Saigon will be on your left on the ground floor.
  • Sinnonhyeon Station (Line 9, Exit 6): Walk down Gangnam U-Street (Gangnamdaero) until you see Paris Baguette Café on your right. Turn right, walk straight for about two minutes, and Little Saigon will be dead ahead.

A Stroll through Samcheong-dong (삼청동)

Yesterday, I decided to head north of the river and explore Seoul’s Samcheong-dong (삼청동) neighbourhood.

Located just north of Anguk Station and the traditional area of Insadong, Samcheong-dong boasts a number of artsy cafés, boutiques, and restaurants.

Despite the sweltering heat and humidity, I decided to head out for a quick jaunt – and by “quick jaunt”, I mean that I walked across the city from Gwangjang Market! It was worth it though, since it was the first time Seoul’s been sunny for a while, in this summer that many are dubbing “the longest monsoon season ever”.

Anyways, here are some photos I snapped up during my stroll:

(PS: check out my review of Café W.E., a fantastic Korean-Western fusion dessert café located in Samcheong-dong)

Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁)

Walking past Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) on my way from Gwangjang Market

A bicycle outside a cafe

A bicycle outside a cafe

Wall painting near the southern entrance to Samcheong-dong

Wall painting near the southern entrance to Samcheong-dong

Typical Samcheong-dong café fare: ice cream waffles and other sweet treats!

Typical Samcheong-dong café fare: ice cream waffles and other sweet treats!

Samcheong-dong (4 of 7)

Graffitied doors on a traditional Korean house (hanok) restaurant

Graffitied doors on a traditional Korean house (hanok) restaurant

Cute clothes

Cute clothes

Jewelry on sale

Jewelry on sale

The tree-lined street of Samcheong-dong

The tree-lined street of Samcheong-dong

Jewelry boutique having a sale

Jewelry boutique having a sale

Bus #11, which takes you to downtown Seoul, Gyeonbokgung Palace, Seoul Station, and Namdaemun Market.

Bus #11, which takes you to downtown Seoul, Gyeonbokgung Palace, Seoul Station, and Namdaemun Market.

Interesting sculpture near the entrance to Samcheong-dong

Interesting sculpture near the entrance to Samcheong-dong

Random storefront

Random storefront

Animal knick-knacks

Animal knick-knacks

Animal knick-knacks

Animal knick-knacks

Art gallery

Art gallery

Funky Starbucks-inspired set - they were cheap! Too bad the gallery was closed.

Funky Starbucks-inspired set – they were cheap! Too bad the gallery was closed.

At the gallery

At the gallery

Alleyway in Samcheong-dong

Alleyway in Samcheong-dong

Art on an alley wall

Art on an alley wall

Stairs leading to a restaurant

Stairs leading to a restaurant

French restaurant

French restaurant

Samcheong-dong (18 of 39) Samcheong-dong (19 of 39)

Giant ring outside of a shop

Giant ring outside of a shop

Locals browsing in a boutique

Locals browsing in a boutique

Cute clothes

Cute clothes

"Vintage" clothes

“Vintage” clothes

Incredibly over-priced "vintage" shop

Incredibly over-priced “vintage” shop

Hello Kitty Café

Hello Kitty Café

Chocolate shop

Chocolate shop

Samcheong-dong (27 of 39) Samcheong-dong (28 of 39)

Clothes for display outside

Clothes for display outside

A little shrine to the Virgin Mary outside?

A little shrine to the Virgin Mary outside?

Cute buidling

Cute buidling

Designer space

Designer space

Samcheong-dong (33 of 39) Samcheong-dong (34 of 39)

Retro Pie shop

Retro Pie shop

Samcheong-dong (36 of 39)

Café W.E. - Korean and Western fusion, featuring things like sweet red bean fondue and hotteok pancakes!

Café W.E. – Korean and Western fusion, featuring things like sweet red bean fondue and hotteok pancakes!

Artsy storefront

Artsy storefront

Artsy storefront

Artsy storefront

Samcheong-dong is located downtown, right next to Seoul’s famous Gyeongbokgong Palace.

Most stores open around 10:30am-11:00am and close around 7:00pm-10:00pm.

Directions:

• Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 1) – 10 minutes on foot
• Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3, Exit 5) – 20 minutes on foot

Map of Samcheong-dong (Photo: Visit Korea)

Map of Samcheong-dong (Photo: Visit Korea)

Korean Fusion Dessert at Café W.E. (West ‘n East)

As part of my “be a tourist in your own town” week today, I decided to visited Seoul’s artsy Samcheong-dong  (삼청동) area, which is accesible from Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 1).

I’d briefly visited it before last fall, but I didn’t really take any photos. So I thought I’d come back today, and do the “thing” to do in Samcheong-dong, which is browse boutiques and check out a dessert café.

Now, I’d been watching Arirang TV special that featured a new Korean-Western fusion dessert café. What caught my eye were these delicious-looking hotteok/pancake things, and the sweet red bean fondue (served with sweet, chewy rice cakes, tteok, for dipping).

–> “Hotteok – 호떡” (pronounced “hoh duck”), is a popular Korean street food, served mainly in the winter. It’s almost like a fried-pancake dumpling, made of a thin batter, and filled with sugar and powdered nuts that turn to a syrup when fried.

I looked it up online and found its name:  W.E. (West ‘n East). This is supposed to acknowledge the two influences (Western and Eastern) in its cooking.

I had no intentions of going there today, but as I was wandering around the back streets of Samcheong-dong, I found it by accident. And, since I was already hungry, it seemed like a sign!

Oh, and if the Arirang video wasn’t enough, you can check out this SBS one featuring a cute Korean guy (skip to 1:14 for the review):

The service was fantastic. Upon opening the menu, I noticed that they’d just made a new fusion item: MAKKGEOLLICINNO (makgeolli + frappuccino). I was ecstatic! It even came with a warning that one glass could make you drunk (sold!).

–> For those who don’t know, makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine, with a milky body and sweet taste. 

Since I consider myself a bit of a makgeolli connoisseur, I felt I had to order it. I knew I would soon regret the decision, since my tolerance for lactose is slowly dwindling, but I felt hey – it’s my last week in Korea!

Makgeollicinno!

Makgeollicinno!

It was so worth it – and since I was warned upon ordering that the famous hotteok-pancakes would take about 20 minutes to prepare, it was nice to have something to snack on while waiting.

But DAMN – this thing is strong! I understand why they had the warning label ^_^ It’s also quite large. I think two people could probably share one, since it’s very heavy like a milkshake. I think I understood it as being a makgeolli + cappuccino  but it was definitely closer to a Starbucks frappuccino.

Shortly after, the hotteok-pancakes arrived!

The hotteok/pancakes

The hotteok/pancakes

Spectacular presentation

Spectacular presentation

See how thick the hotteok are??

See how thick the hotteok are??

Need I say more?

These were divine! Definitely something for two people to share, though, since the hotteok are so thick and are STUFFED. The filling is made up of sugar, nuts and berries, an untraditional hotteok ingredient for sure.

I’m a sucker for any kind of dessert that mixes warmth with cold, so to have this warm hotteok served with ice cream was just perfection. The two create an irresistible contrast, especially if you take a bit of the peanut powder and caramel with the ice cream, and top it with the warm berry compote before eating it with a piece of hotteok. I should’ve taken a photo of that.

Looks like a warzone!

Looks like a warzone!

So delicious

So delicious

Sadly, this was a classic case of “my eyes were bigger than my stomach”, so I felt very bad to have to waste so much.

I felt like Buddha walking out though – calm, content, and with a fat belly!

Interior in the front

Interior in the front

Hallway leading to the back

Hallway leading to the back

The kitchen and front end

The kitchen and front end

Tables in the front

Tables in the front

Banner outside the restaurant

Banner outside the restaurant

W.e.: "West and East"

W.e.: “West and East”

Restaurant exterior

Restaurant exterior

Café W.E. also has locations in Hongdae and Sinsa-dong.

To get to the one in Samcheong-dong, follow the map on Café W.E.’s website here.

Their menu is also online here.

  • Hours: 11:00am to 11:00pm from Monday to Friday; 12:00pm to 10:00pm on Sundays
  • Subway: Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 1)
  • Address (Korean): 서울 종로구 팔판동 43-2 [더블유이]
  • Address (English): W, 43-2, Palpan-dong, Jongro-gu, Seoul
  • Phone: +82-2-739-0919
  • Facebook: facebook.com/WestnEast
  • Twitter: @WestnEast
  • Website: www.westneast.co.kr

Seoul’s Gwangjang Market (광장시장)

Today I decided to take a trip to Korea’s first market: Gwangjang Shijang (Gwangjang Market – 광장시장).

The fact that I consider myself an avid shop-a-holic, plus having lived here for a year means that I was long overdue for a visit to this downtown Seoul staple.

While markets like Dongdaemun and Namdaemun seem to get a lot of attention, Gwangjang appears to go quietly unnoticed. Many friends of mine had never even heard of it, despite having lived here for quite some time.

Gwangjang’s main draws are its fabrics and textiles (many of which are supplied wholesale to other more well-known markets, in addition to being used to make Gwangjang’s famous hanboks) and its street food.

At one of the smaller entrances to the market

At one of the smaller entrances to the market

A hanbok store's front display

A hanbok store’s front display

Fabrics for sale

Fabrics for sale

Gwangjang Market (4 of 25)

Walking through the market

Walking through the market

Gift sets made from rice cakes and other snacks

Gift sets made from rice cakes and other snacks

Gwangjang Market (7 of 25) Gwangjang Market (8 of 25)

The top eats at Gwangjang Market are bindatteok (빈대떡) – fried mung bean pancakes, and bibimbap (비빔밥) – mixed veggies served on top of rice with spicy chili paste.

Bibimbap is one of Korea’s signature dishes, and a favourite among international visitors. However, it’s not commonly seen as a street food, mainly because of the large space needed for its assembly.

Bindatteok is a heavy, oily dish, served best with makgeolli (막걸리) – Korean traditional rice wine. It’s also best eaten on cold, rainy days. It’s comfort food, for sure!

However, today was one of the most hot and humid days of the year, so I didn’t order any bindatteok. I wasn’t feeling hungry enough for bibimbap either, so I just looked ^_^

A woman selling mung bean pancake (bindatteok - 빈대떡)

A woman selling mung bean pancake (bindatteok – 빈대떡)

People eating at the different vendors

People eating at the different vendors

Gwangjang Market (11 of 25) Gwangjang Market (12 of 25)

Women selling pumpkin and sweet red bean porridge from giant cauldron-looking things

Women selling pumpkin and sweet red bean porridge from giant cauldron-looking things

Gwangjang Market (14 of 25)

More hanboks

More hanboks

Gwangjang Market (16 of 25)

A man eating mixed veggies on rice (bibimbap - 비빔밥)

A man eating mixed veggies on rice (bibimbap – 비빔밥)

Gwangjang Market (18 of 25)

The various ingredients for bibimbap (비빔밥) are laid out. I got the impression that you get to pick and choose.

The various ingredients for bibimbap (비빔밥) are laid out. I got the impression that you get to pick and choose.

Tteok, tteok; I love tteok!

Tteok, tteok; I love tteok!

More gift sets - the octopus one caught my eye!

More gift sets – the octopus one caught my eye!

A woman making spicy fermented cabbage (kimchi - 김치),

A woman making spicy fermented cabbage (kimchi – 김치),

More women selling bindatteok (mung bean pancake).

More women selling bindatteok (mung bean pancake).

Gwangjang Market (24 of 25)

A woman selling various cosmetics and household products

A woman selling various cosmetics and household products

Well, I won’t lie – Gwangjang Market didn’t really blow me away. I think if I’d tried the bindatteok or bibimbap I would’ve “gotten more” out of the experience. Otherwise, it just seemed like your typical Korean market.

I’d stay it’s still worth a visit, though!

Info:

  • Hours: 7:00am to 10:00pm, although some vendors may open or close later/earlier.
  • Subway: Jongno 5(o)-ga (Line 1, Exit 8) or Euljiro 4(sa)-ga (Lines 2 and 5, Exit 4)
  • Websitehttp://www.kwangjangmarket.co.kr/  (Korean only)
A map of Seoul's Jongno and Dongdaemun areas - Gwangjang Market is in the top-left corner (Photo: Visit Seoul)

A map of Seoul’s Jongno and Dongdaemun areas – Gwangjang Market is in the top-left corner (Photo: Visit Seoul)

Urban Nature: Relaxing by Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream

Yesterday I had some time to kill between attending a press conference for JFNK and meeting my friend for dinner.

Since the press conference (which was raising awareness about underground religion in North Korea) was held at the Korea Press Center, right in downtown Seoul, it was easy to wander around pass the time.

I decided to head down to the popular Cheonggyecheon (청계천) stream, which is 8km long. Running through the heart of Seoul, Cheonggyecheon is a great spot to sit, relax, read, take photos or enjoy a cold ice cream (which is what I did ^_^).

Most of all, it’s a great place for people-watching. You can see locals, tourists, couples, families, and the elderly all enjoying this urban oasis.

iPhonetography!

iPhonetography!

Walking near Jonggak Station

Walking near Jonggak Station

Business towers

Business towers

Cheonggyecheon during the Korean War

Cheonggyecheon during 1910-1945 (photo: Seoul Metropolitan History Committee)

As you can see from the photo above, Cheonggyecheon wasn’t always a nice place. In the first half of the 20th century, it was actually a slum. Then, as Seoul began to develop, it was paved over to make room for a new highway.

In 2003, the Mayor of Seoul Lee Myung-Bak (who would go onto become the President of Korea) proposed an expensive beautification plan for Cheonggyecheon. Even today, those who visit Seoul often note that there is a lack of parks and green space – perhaps the price paid by rapid modernization. Lee’s $900 million development project was met with a lot of controversy when it was first proposed.

However, it’s since become a favourite among Seoulites both young and old.

It’s also representative of Seoul’s rapid development. When I was here in 2011, there were no plants along the river. Now, of course, that’s not the case.

That’s possibly my favourite thing about living in Korea – everything is changing (and has changed) so fast.

Cheonggyecheon stream

Cheonggyecheon stream

Cheonggyecheon stream

Cheonggyecheon stream

Cheonggyecheon stream

Cheonggyecheon stream

Staring down Cheonggyecheon stream near the KTO HQ

Staring down Cheonggyecheon stream near the KTO HQ

After wandering a bit more, I accidentally found myself in front of the Korea Tourism Organization building:

Chunggyecheon (8 of 10)

The KTO headquarters

The KTO headquarters

The KTO headquarters

The KTO headquarters

Emotional times… I leave for Bali in less than 12 hours, and after that, only two more weeks left in Korea. Where did one year go?

Review: Bonny’s Pizza in Haebongchon

Last night, I had the pleasure of going out with a friend of mine to Bonny’s Pub in Haebongchon.

We chose Bonny’s because a mutual friend of ours had won a voucher for a free pizza + two beers at a charity event I helped organize back in May. Bonny’s was kind enough to donate a voucher for the raffle, but sadly, my friend couldn’t use it before she left the country.

So, she left it in the kind hands of your’s truly and our mutual friend Wang Min (whom we’d met at a Makgeolli Mamas and Papas meet-up).

Seeing as my days in this country are numbered, Wang Min and I decided to head into the hip/up-and-coming Haebongchon neighbourhood for some free pizza and beer.

Outside Bonny's

Outside Bonny’s

Outside Bonny's

Outside Bonny’s

The interior of the pub

The interior of the pub

Bonny’s is a self-serve beer pub/sports bar. Two large TV screens show “football” (what we North Americans call “soccer”) while several booths, barstool tables and chairs line the inside.

Since the place is so small, you just go up to the til to order and pay on the spot. Your server will bring you your food and draft beer, otherwise, you’re free to help yourself to the bottles in the fridges (paying first, of course!).

Wang Min and I decided to keep it classic, and ordered Bonny’s pepperoni pizza with thick crust. Bonny’s does have the option of ordering thin curst pizzas, but I’d read on some food blogs that thick was the way to go – a true “American-style” pizza.

Regular pepperoni with thick crust

Regular pepperoni with thick crust – 12,000w

Needless to say, it was delicious. It had a nice thick, greasy crust that reminded me of Pizza Hut-style pizza from back home. And yes, we finished the whole thing! But not without washing it down with a couple free draft beers that came with the voucher.

Bonny’s has Max beer on tap for 2,500w/glass, which is not bad at all. Wang Min treated me to a Tsingtao, which tasted deliciously refreshing on that hot summer night.

I read that Bonny’s two popular pizzas are the Beast and the Kimchi Cult…

"The Beast" - beef pizza (Photo: Bonny's Pub, facebook)

“The Beast” – beef pizza (Photo: Bonny’s Pub, facebook)

"Kimchi Cult" home-made, organic kimchi with bacon, onion & cheese (photo: Bonny's Pub, facebook)

“Kimchi Cult” home-made, organic kimchi with bacon, onion & cheese (photo: Bonny’s Pub, facebook)

I am a bit skeptical about the notion of putting kimchi on pizza… Though based on the photo Bonny’s has on their facebook page, it looks like a fairly doable concept. If I was here longer, I’d definitely give it a try.

Lots of international beers to choose from (Photo: Bonny's Pub, facebook

Over 70 brands of international beers to choose from (Photo: Bonny’s Pub, facebook)

Bonny's Pub (4 of 5)

Pizza Menu (Photo: MissLeeDa - Naver Blog)

Pizza Menu (Photo: MissLyda – Naver Blog)

If you’re looking for a thick, greasy and cheesy American-style pizza, then Bonny’s is your place.

One thing I wish I would’ve known a few months ago: Bonny’s does 4,000w unlimited Americanos on Sundays (they call it their “Hangover Special”). Pair that with a greasy 3,000w slice of pizza, and  you’re good to go. Or, if you’re like some friends of mine who swear by beer as the best hangover cure, you can’t beat a 640mL bottle of Tsingtao for 5,000w.

Pizzas range in price from 8,000w (small) to 18,000w (large), with prices fluctuating depending on the toppings.

The open-air atmosphere was cool, but on such a hot and humid night, some AC would’ve felt even better!

A Korean blogger noted that there is NO hangeul menu, and that one can only order in English ^_^ Too bad for the non-English speaking Korean pizza-lovers out there, although I’m sure they’d get by okay just by pointing and grunting at the pictures (hey, that’s what I do here!).

Overall, Bonny’s seems like a pretty popular neighbourhood place. I approve.

Info:

Hours: 2:00pm to late (Monday to Friday) and 11:30am to late (Saturday, Sunday)

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BonnysPub

Website: none

Phone: +82-2-792-0303

Directions:  Noksapyeong Station, exit 2. Walk straight up the hill, passing the kimchi pots on your left. Keep walking for about five minutes, and Bonny’s will be on your left, right after Phillie’s Pub and across the street from Indigo. If you see the Pinoy Mart on your right, you’ve gone too far.

Dining at Seoul’s Noryangjin Fish Market

Just before school ended a few weeks ago, some friends and I made the jaunt to Noryangjin Wholesale Fisheries Market, located right below the centre of the Han River.

Despite the fact that the market was located a mere 10 or 15-minute bus ride from our dorms, for a few of us (myself included), this was our first time going. Noryangjin Market is a pretty major tourist site in Seoul, and a definite “must-see” while visiting the city.

One of our more passionate fellow exchange students would lead impromptu mini-tours to the market during the wholesale auction time. The thing is, these tours were a tad bit early. While I certainly would’ve loved to see the lively atmosphere and get a good deal on the fish at the same time, I just couldn’t seem to drag myself out of bed in time for these 4:00am adventures! In hindsight, and with only a few weeks left in this city, I wish I would’ve gone.

In any case, we still made it to the market!

However, it was a bit last-minute and I didn’t exactly research enough travel tips before going.

We all think we were ripped off a bit, but the food was so good and the experience was so essential that we didn’t care 🙂

Entering the market from the subway

Entering the market from the subway

_MG_1916

Would you like tentacles in your meal today?

Would you like tentacles in your meal today?

Stalls upon stalls

Stalls upon stalls

Where to next?

Where to next?

A fishmonger stands with his wares

A fishmonger stands with his wares

This salmon looked pretty good, so we picked up a couple filets and some lobster-ish looking things (hey, they were really good!). After meeting up with a couple other friends who’d already bought their fish, we made our way to one of the nearby restaurants to get everything all cooked up.

Nice presentation

Nice presentation

Et voila, the results! Juicy, tender salmon. I didn’t take as many photos as I would’ve liked, but you get the picture!

Possibly some of the best salmon I've ever tasted - and I'm from the Pacific Northwest!

Possibly some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted – and I’m from the Pacific Northwest!

Of course, all of that seafood needed to be washed down with a few bottles of Korea’s finest ale, Cass. Hey, when you don’t have a nice Chardonnay for the fish, what’re you gonna do? I should mention that the conversation at this meal was conducted in French, which was super for me. Good practice, and a good ego adjustment to realize that my French isn’t as good as I sometimes like to believe it is!

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The prawn/lobster-ish things are in the centre.. Couldn’t figure out what they were, but they were good!

The restaurant even gave us a “service” (Konglish for “on-the-house”) haemul pajeon. Nice!

Focus is off :( But the haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) was pretty good!

Focus is off 😦 But the haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) was pretty good!

Overall a memorable experience.

Not sure if I’ll try to make it back to Noryangjin before I leave, as I have a sneaking suspicion that you can only get the best deals during the wholesale auction (and hey, I make no promises about being able to get up at that time!).

Also, I was able to visit Jalgachi Market in Busan during my free K-Shuttle bus tour last fall. There, I was able to stuff myself with (raw) fish for less than $10 – as opposed to this dinner in Seoul, which cost over $30.

Granted, in Busan I had a local/tour guide with me who knew the best places to go – and to be honest, we didn’t even buy anything inside the market. We went to a vendor on the street outside, which could be why we got such a good deal.

As well, we took our spoils to go and sat on a park bench instead of paying a “BYOF” (bring your own fish – lol) fee somewhere ^_^ I’m not cheap, just thrifty!! I swear it!

Anyways, if anything, a trip to Noryangjin is worth it just for the photos. It’s a lively, colourful atmosphere that you may not see back home.

My Trip to the JSA and DMZ

Recently, I won a discounted fee for one of the most popular tourist destinations in Korea: the Joint-Security Area (JSA) between North and South Korea on the DMZ.

Despite being commonly referred to as “the most dangerous place on earth”, trips to the DMZ are strikingly popular among tourists visiting South Korea.

Prior to this trip, I’d already been on two tours to different sites along the 38th parallel, separating the communist North from the capitalist South.

(Why are there two Koreas? It’s a long story – check out the video below for a summarized version)

I’d never visited the JSA before, which is arguably the most interesting stop along the border.

With American and ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers on the Southern side staring down DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) soldiers on the Northern side, the line on the ground separating these two countries seems more apparent than ever. In other words, tensions are VERY high.

That said, the rules for visiting JSA are understandably strict. For example, even though there are dozens of independent operators offering tours to other DMZ sites (such as tunnels, military museums, and observatories), only a few select government-approved tour agencies are allowed to take visitors to the JSA.

It’s not cheap, either – most JSA tours start at around $77, while other non-JSA DMZ tours can go as low as $33 (like the one I took).

That’s partly the reason I hadn’t signed up for a JSA tour since coming to Seoul (student budget!).

I did do a free DMZ tour as part of the summer Korean culture program I’d attended back in 2011. As well, I opted to go for another tour in the winter of 2012 that visited some other sites I hadn’t seen, mainly because it was offered at an affordable price ($33) through When in Korea (WiNK).

In the case of this JSA tour, offered by the Panmunjom Travel Center, I’d won a facebook draw a few days prior for a discounted fee. Normally, the cost of the tour is $77, but I only had to pay $10. The tour company occasionally uses this promo to fill up empty seats on the bus a few days before the departure.

Panmunjom Travel Deal Photo

Anyways, after receiving a facebook message confirming my spot, I sent my passport to the company. Part of visiting the JSA requires having a UN-performed background check (serious, right?). I passed, so come Friday morning I was set to go!

Shortly after arriving at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, we were on our way to the first stop along the tour, Odusan Observatory.

Odusan Observatory 

Once hearing that we were visiting an observatory, I got a bit disappointed. Since I’d already visited a few others on the two other tours I went on, I thought it would be a bit boring to see the same place for a second or third time.

However, I’d never been to the Odusan Observatory. In fact, I’d have to say that it’s one of the better ones I’d visited along the DMZ.

Unlike other observatories, there wasn’t any visible North Korean “stuff” in the landscape (ex: propaganda posters, military watchtowers or outposts, etc). However, the mini museum inside the observatory was very interesting.

The view from Odusan Observatory: staring out into North Korea from the South

The view from Odusan Observatory: staring out into North Korea from the South

The focus was on life in North Korea, so they had a replica of a typical North Korean class and living room.

Typical North Korean clothes

Typical North Korean clothes

A typical/well-off North Korean home (notice the TV set, not something a lot of poor North Koreans can afford)

A typical/well-off North Korean home (notice the TV set, not something a lot of poor North Koreans can afford)

Our tour even included a Q&A with a North Korean refugee, who was a woman in her 40s or 50s. We sat in the replica classroom and asked her questions about her life back in the DPRK. I asked her what made her decide to leave, and she said (with the help of our tour guide translating) that it was the fact that her sister had already left.

It was a great follow up to the film that we were showed upon arrival, which briefly showed the history of division between the two Koreas and the state of human rights abuses in the Hermit Kingdom.

The observatory’s gift shop was pretty impressive as well, with a lot more DMZ and North Korean products available for purchase than at other tourist sites.

Entrance to Odusan Observatory

Entrance to Odusan Observatory

North Korean liquors for sale ($15-$50/bottle)

North Korean liquors for sale ($15-$50/bottle)

North Korean liquors for sale ($15-$50/bottle)

North Korean liquors for sale ($15-$50/bottle)

North Korean liquors on display

North Korean liquors on display

JSA Tour (19 of 46)

North Korean pins and stamps on display

North Korean pins and stamps on display

JSA Tour (24 of 46) JSA Tour (25 of 46)

The giftshop was the largest I'd seen on a DMZ tour

The giftshop was the largest I’d seen on a DMZ tour

South Korean ginseng products

South Korean ginseng products

JSA Tour (30 of 46)

A monument outside the observatory

A monument outside the observatory

A statue outside the observatory

A statue outside the observatory

After wrapping up our visit at Odusan, we moved onto our next stop.

Imjingak

Now, I’m not going to say much about Imjingak, mainly since I already visited the place on my prior DMZ tour with WiNK. Granted, at that time it was covered in snow and almost devoid of any other visitors; while on this visit there was no snow to be seen and instead just droves of tourists.

I took a look at the pond, which I must’ve missed on my first visit there.

Prayers for unification at Imjingak

Prayers for unification at Imjingak

Train and tourists

Train and tourists

Gift shops and restaurants

Gift shops and restaurants

Participants on the Ministry of Environment tour

Participants on the Ministry of Environment tour

Little pond beneath the symbolic bridge between North and South Korea

Little pond beneath the symbolic bridge between North and South Korea

Something I didn't notice on my last tour - this monument is a symbolic ancestral tombstone for all North Korean refugees who cannot visit the remains of their deceased relatives back home - moving.

Something I didn’t notice on my last tour – this monument is a symbolic ancestral tombstone for all North Korean refugees who cannot visit the remains of their deceased relatives back home – moving.

After snapping some photos, I headed back to the bus, but not without running into Patricja, a Polish friend of mine from the Friends of Invest Korea program I’m in. She was there on a group trip with the Korean Ministry of Environment.

Lunch

Again, I’m not going to say much on this subject.

Since those who know me know I’m a shameless foodie, the fact that I don’t have much to say on the subject of a meal will understand that this is not a good thing.

Okay, so I can’t complain – I only paid $10 for the trip.

However, everyone else was paying $77 – and for that price, I’ve gotta say, the meal was pretty horrible.

I’ve eaten a lot of Korean BBQ since abandoning my meat-free days here, and this was pretty bad. The lettuce was limp, and there was enough grease in the table-top bulgogi pan to drown an army.

It was clear that the restaurant survives on business from DMZ tour busses, as it’s in a pretty isolated area, and all of the other diners were being herded to their tables after getting off of their own respective tour busses.

Compared to the restaurant we ate at on the DMZ tour I took with WiNK, this place was not very impressive.

Camp Bonifas

After lunch, we got back on the bus and were off to get our passports checked on the Unification Bridge.

Everything was good to go, so we continued onto Camp Bonifas, which was the military base that we would transfer busses at.

Camp Bonifas is operated by both Korean and American troops.

At this point, we were now officially in the South’s side of the DMZ. We just needed to get onto a UN-approved vehicle for our trip to the JSA.

After meeting our supervisor from the US military, we were on our way to the JSA.

Panmunjom – the Joint Security Area

Finally, we’d arrived at the main attraction of the tour – the JSA.

As mentioned earlier, everything was super strict. Back at Camp Bonifas, one of the tourists had to change out of his shorts and into a pair of pants.

It appeared that I was one of the few tourists that actually took the JSA dress code seriously, but in general they were pretty flexible with it.

The dress code prohibits visitors from wearing: t-shirts, miniskirts, shorts, heels, exercise clothes, slippers, faded jeans, tights, leggings, and trousers. Previously, I thought the reason for this was partly due to safety concerns (ex: a woman wearing heels isn’t exactly in the best position to make a break for it, just in case shots get fired).

According to our tour guide, the dress code exists in case the North decides to feature any of the tourists in state propaganda.

Those who dress “sloppy” make perfect fodder for the North’s favoured depiction of American (or other Western) foreigners.

Additionally, we were instructed not to make any gestures (ex: pointing, waving, etc) towards the North Korean guards. This was for the same reason – those who are shown waiving risk being depicted as “someone wanting to defect to the North” by the DRPK’s propaganda artists.

After being given these briefings, we made our way – single file – to the JSA.

We were quickly shuffled into the Freedom House Military Armistice Commission Building, where one can put one foot “into North Korea”, and one foot into South Korea.

South Korean guards were in the building to keep watch, and much like the British bobbies in London, they’re supposed to keep still in the ready position – a perfect photo opp for tacky tourists like me!

Standing with a South Korean guard

Standing with a South Korean guard

Photos!

Photos!

The centre table

The centre table

This building is used for signing official documents and to have UN-monitored meetings. Since it’s half in North Korea, half in South Korea, it makes for a fairly neutral meeting space.

After taking a few photos in the Armistice Commission Building, we moved outside.

I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t as many North Korean guards as I had expected (based on different YouTube videos I’ve watched), but it was still cool to see.

The JSA!

The JSA!

JSA Tour (44 of 46)

A North Korean guard

A North Korean guard

Before you can say “bomb threat”, we were shuffled out and back into our tour bus.

From there, were were back on our way to Seoul.

Summary

All in all, it was a good trip.

I liked that they brought a North Korean refugee along with us to answer questions; it was probably a great experience for those who only had a week or two to spend in Korea.

Additionally, I liked that we were back in Seoul by 4:30pm. Everything ran very smoothly.

Would I recommend Panmunjom Travel Center?

If you must see the JSA, then yes. The fact that they brought along a North Korean refugee was quite memorable. The tour guide was alright – not fantastic, but not horrible.

If you just want to be able to gaze out into North Korea and buy some North Korean souvenirs, then I’d recommend taking a tour with When in Korea (WiNK).

Though not regularly offered, WiNK’s DMZ trips are affordable and cram a LOT into a one-day tour; around double the sites that the standard DMZ tour operators normally offer.

How can I get an 85%-off travel deal to visit the JSA?

Simply like the Panmunjom Travel Center on facebook, and keep your eyes peeled for their next deal.

Students can get a discounted rate of $65 to go on this tour.

Sundays in Seoul: Free Cooking Class at CJ Food World

 

This past Sunday I attended a free cooking class at CJ Food World, in Dongdaemun, a famous shopping area in northeastern Seoul.

 

CJ Food World is the national headquarters of brands like Tous les Jours (Canadians: think a French-inspired, self-serve version of Tim Horton’s) and Twosome Place (a Starbucks-esque “dessert cafe”). They also have an in-house cooking studio, where the class I was in took place.

 

I found out about the cooking class through a group called Community Korea. They have a very active facebook presence, and regularly advertise events, contests, and sales for foreigners. This was the first time I’d attended one of the events they’d promoted, and I was really excited. I’d won the class from an online draw (been so lucky lately!).

So, I took a bus from outside my school right to the CJ Food HQ:

CJ Food World  Upon arriving, we were led into a meeting room which had free coffee and tea (silly me, I’d already spent $4 on a soy vanilla latte – but in my defense, it’s not often you see one of those on a cafe menu here in Korea!).

 

After the meeting room, we were ushered into the cooking studio, where we began cooking our Lunar New Year-themed dishes, “doenjang goggi buchu jeon” (soybean pancake with chives) and “haemul beoseot soondubu jeongol” (Seafood & mushroom soft tofu stew).

 

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The chef presented a lively and engaging cooking demo. His English was really good; turns out he’d spent several years as a restauranteur in the US.

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix43We were supposed to pair up, so I went with a girl I’d met at an event the weekend prior; 10 Magazine’s Sunday book club (which featured Michael Breen, author of “the Koreans”).

That’s us below:ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix25

Our dishes!

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The rest of the participants…ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix28

All in all, it was a lot of fun! The organizers had altered the dishes a bit to make them appeal to foreign tastes though. A couple of us noticed this, as the mixture they’d provided actually had sugar added, giving the pancakes an unusually sweet flavour.  As well, we were given beef to use in our pancakes, another non-traditional addition to the original Korean recipe. The chef noted during the demo that they wanted to “spoil” us foreigners (hence the beef), but I think many of us would’ve just preferred the traditional version! But, it was so thoughtful of them to go the extra mile.

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The chef explained several times throughout the demo that since Korean food is too often overshadowed by “sushi” (Japanese food) and Chinese food, the goal of the class was to try and make Korean food appeal more to foreigners. Part of this was promoting a new line of products, which essentially cut out half of the prep involved in cooking many popular Korean foods (which traditionally take more work than other Asian cuisines). Some of these included Korean BBQ marinades, soup stocks, and hotteok (Korean sugar pancake) mix.

To cap off the lesson, we all gathered for a few photo ops coordinated by a very serious Korean photographer. Actually, it kind of reminded me of the “Suntory Time” scene from one of my favourite movies, “Lost in Translation” (clip below).

Of course, it was very different because it was set in Japan, and my cooking class was in Korea 🙂 Korea and Japan are very different. Dokdo is Korean. My Korean friends would be very proud of me right now 🙂

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix03Some of the products that we used:ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix05

Anyways, probably the best part of the day was getting the freebie pack they sent us home with! Holy guacamole, Korea LOVES too give out free stuff to foreigners!

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What the f-ck am I going to do with all this kimchi… It’s a non-resealable bag, by the way.

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They even gave us thank you cards!

“Thank you for your time” – seriously? You gave us a free cooking class, plus what I’m estimating was around 30,000w ($30) worth of free samples. My pleasure!

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