Talk about productive! To start the day, Danny and I grabbed a coffee at A Twosome Place – getting a free macaroon in the process – and then ventured to Hongdae, getting a mixed mandu (dumplings) platter for lunch at a place that’s been on our bucket list. Shortly after we found Bau House, the dog cafe. Because we wanted to grab a beer at Magpies, the brewing company, and it wasn’t open until 5, we had a drink at Zombie Coffee, another place on our bucket list. We ended up sitting in Magpies for a couple of hours, sampling a majority of the menu. By this time it was past dinner time so we called into Monster Pizza, then had a hotteok before calling it quits. We knocked off so many places!
November is slowly becoming December, and autumn is slowly turning into winter. The leaves, which are a beautiful amalgamation of red and orange, will soon disappear and the trees will be as skeletal as the buildings. The neon lights of Seoul will make it look less lonely, but out here in the edges of Hanam, even in my moderately populated, semi-cosmopolitan suburb, the waters outside my window are stilling, the streets are emptying, and the darkness is looming. Families no longer sit outside the line of chicken and hof places by the E-mart. The kids still drive those remote control cars, and some parents are braving the weather for the sake of leaving their cramped apartments, but only in the afternoon, and only on the weekend. Coffee shops are even more tempting than before. Connie told me that Chenon is closing at the end of the month as the sisters who run it after moving to Busan to be with their parents and open a coffee shop there, which has saddened me greatly. It was the place to go in Hanam for us waygookin: they had the nicest coffee, the best atmosphere, and they were lovely, lovely people.
When the air isn’t filled with smog, it’s crisp and clear, the kind of air that chills you to the bone. It’s time for coats, beanies and aegyo mittens, and street vendors are now selling long-roasting sweet potatoes, red bean fish breads, and sweet, syrupy hotteoks. It’s goodbye to bingsu and naengmyeon and hello to jiggaes and guks.
On Thursday, Danny and i went to watch Interstellar at the Lotte Cinema in Cheonho, which was unusually crowded until we realised all of the seniors were sitting their college entrance exams and it’s such a big deal here that they give the rest of the school the day off. After a customary post-film Starbucks, we braved Insadong because he hadn’t been and there we had a lovely kimchi jiggae, but it was that cold and we were that underprepared we left early, forgetting the lanterns, and huddled up in our apartment and played The Sims 4. On Friday, we went out for Elena’s birthday at an Indian restaurant called Ganges in Itaewon. It was nice, even if the portions were small and overpriced. Strangely, they didn’t have at least half the menu: out of a long list of drinks they could only make rum and coke. I don’t miss or crave Indian food so I won’t be going back. Myself, Danny, Connie and Reza split the bill as a birthday gift. Naturally we headed to Geckos and taxied it home by 2am.
On Saturday, Danny and I headed to Dongdaemun to see the Pikachu parade. It was crowded, over-hyped, and we only had a birds-eye view of about five of them. The inside event was even more crowded; the line for the store was out of the building, so we left rather quickly and stopped off for lunch at Cheonho. That evening Taylor, Alison and Stephen invited us to local bar for a couple of drinks, so we stopped by. Now it’s Sunday and I’ve never felt lazier.
AKA the burger inside a burger inside a burger. It’s two pieces of chicken with a beef burger in the middle, accompanied by bacon (or whatever Korea uses for bacon) and some sauce. It’s a glorious insult to mankind. Here is a pic-spam of Danny enjoying said monstrosity. Just for the record, it doesn’t look quite so put together as the advertisement, but what else is new?
Since my dad has been visiting these past two weeks, I’ve been eating out more. Here are a few pictures: dakgalbi (Hanam), chilli chicken (Samtong, Gangnam), bulgogi something (Hongdae), coffee patbingsu (Korean Desert Cafe), grilled chicken sandwich (Bread and Burger, Garosil-gil), cookie ice cream (a department store in Garosil-gil), street food (Insadong).
Or spicy cold noodles (bibim means mixed). There’s another variation – mul naengmyeon. Those noodles are served in a cold broth (mul translates to water). I was at Cheonho earlier because I wanted to sit in Gong Cha and read Wicked (I had an oolong milk tea this time) and decided to grab something I hadn’t tried for lunch, so with it being ridiculously hot I happily stumbled upon a restaurant that served naengmyeon. This dish had been on my radar for a while, if only because the concept sounded strange. I mean, cold noodles? Not, like, leftover Chinese food that you stuff your face with the morning after, but noodles that are meant to be cold? But let me tell you: it was delicious.
The dish is served with scissors because the noodles are practically infinite, so cutting them is a must before you dig in, and there are two condiments on the table to mix with it if you wish – mustard and vinegar. Apparently the reason why the noodles are served uncut is because it symbolises good health and the longevity of life. Anyway, I tried both sauces but I found the taste to be lovely without. You can even add sugar if you wish. It’s served with julliened cucumber on top, half a boiled egg, and gochujang (red chill paste). It needs thoroughly mixing. This particular restaurant even served me a small platter of grilled beef on the side. One of the servers gave me a fork, bless, but I solidly used the chopsticks. I like using chopsticks, even if my skills are lacking, especially when it comes to thin, buckwheat noodles. Everything I ate came to the low, low price of 5,500 won. I’ve paid more for coffee. I love trying new foods and it paying off.
Since I’m writing a post anyway, I figure I may as well mention the rest of my week thus far: on Monday there was no new episode of Game of Thrones, but we all went to the Italian restaurant Alison and Taylor usually get our pizzas from – it was really, really good. They even gave us salad on service! We basically ordered pizzas for the table. And, um, wine was had (I was NOT tipsy on a school night). Us girls had one side of the table, and the boys had the other; it was nice to get together and just sit and chat. On Tuesday Connie and I met for our usual Hanam exploration. We didn’t venture far (the humidity is appalling), just to Homeplus and back, but it was enough to ease our way back into exercising, and we made plans to go to Cheonho next week and grab dinner with Reza once he finishes work, so that’s something to look forward to. Yesterday I didn’t do much aside from meet Connie at the gym, and today I’ve already outlined, so that’s about it. I don’t have any concrete plans for this weekend, just tentative ones, but I’m hearing that next week we have a long weekend and Connie’s friends from her old stomping ground are visiting so we’re all going into Hongdae. I don’t know, really, what the plan is, I’m just going with the flow. Because of this, I’m not too concerned about having loads of plans this weekend.
There’s been some changes in the school, too. I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned previous but one of our teachers just sort of left. She had a broken arm and I think the reason behind her leaving was to do with the stress of having to look after a bunch of unruly six year olds, and as a result things have been a little hectic: I was roped into seeing over that class, as in serve and eat lunch with them (with Sue) and clean the classroom after hours. Also, I’m now solely responsible for one of the after-school English classes Wednesday and Friday whereas before the three of us – English teachers that is – would take it in turns to lead the younger learner/older learner sessions. It’s okay, though, I usually have three students in my ‘young learner’ classes, so even though their ability is lower, it’s more chilled out. I wasn’t too happy about leaving my W:1 class at the time (it fell during my depressed week), but I’m now back in with them because a new teacher has been hired. She’s really nice, too. I think I’ve talked to her more in the last couple of days than I have the rest of the teachers combined since I’ve been here. Because she’s just been observing the class she’ll be in charge of this week, she’s been in the class as I’m teaching, and it’s been an indescribable help having her there to establish discipline. It’s reassuring to know it’s not something about me: these kids are difficult to manage. There’s one who is an absolute nightmare, worse than Juno. Alison actually used to tutor him outside of school and said he was impossible. Now I don’t know if kids this age are like this across the board, but I’ve come to assume the behaviour I’m witnessing is not normal. I’m doing what I can; I’m introducing more games, I’m trying to make things more interesting, and to some extent it’s paying off, but I’ll still have those lessons where I can’t get five seconds of silence. I take it as it comes to be honest.
Anyway, that’s a whole other story.
It may not look very attractive but this was honestly delicious. I bought the hot tteokgalbi toast, which I believe contained some kind of meatloaf-esque patty, egg, cheese, cabbage, sweet pickles, some kind of hot sauce, and their signature butter bread. I’m salivating just thinking about it! It was only 3,200 won, too! ‘Twas huge. I’d heard about it through Eat Your Kimchi and they haven’t failed me yet (I’m still making my way through their recommendations at Gong Cha, but I’m reluctant to stray far away from the black milk tea with pearl) so I went to Hongdae with the intention of trying this and it did not disappoint. It was right by the uni’s front gates for anyone wondering.
Jajamyeon, or noodles in a black bean paste. I’ve been wanting to try this dish ever since I came to Korea, and it did not disappoint. I placed my order and it arrived in 2.5 seconds. Cost: 5,000 won.
I went to Gong Cha again because I rather like bubble tea. This time I had a chocolate milk tea, 30% sugar, 50% ice, pearl topping. I prefer the black milk tea to be honest.
This girl was sitting in front of me in Gong Cha wearing a hanbok and looking amazing. I don’t know what the occasion was; her boyfriend was dressed ‘normal’.
The book I’m reading right now: ‘I’m afraid that if my dream is realised, I’ll have no reason to go on living.’
I found this at the end of a street in Jongno.
Korean KFC does a burger without the bread. I was tempted.
I bought this shirt from a store called ‘The Art Box.’
This cost 3,500 won, which is about £2.