This past month has seen me travelling through Asia—specifically, Vietnam and South Korea—with my partner. South Korea has been an especially interesting one as I haven’t been here since I was teeny tiny and I knew very little about the country coming into it.
As my partner has been off getting a plethora of new tattoos whilst we’ve been here, I’ve done a good chunk of exploring by myself. I have absolutely no experience solo travelling so I’m rather proud of myself for getting to it and figuring it out!
Whether you’re planning a trip to Korea yourself or you’re just curious about what I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks, here’s what I’ve loved in Korea so far.
If you haven’t checked out the experiences that Airbnb offers, I’d highly recommend taking a peek! They have tons of experiences hosted by locals all around the world. Even if you have no travel plans in your future, it’s worth having a look to see what’s on offer in your own city—they make great date nights! The highlight of my time in Korea has actually been a kimchi-making class, which I booked through Airbnb. It was hosted by a local Korean couple in their own home. They provided all the ingredients, jars to take our kimchi home in, and a full dinner for all the people in the class to share. It was super interesting hearing about the kimchi’s history and health benefits, and even cooler learning how it’s made! It was surprisingly simple and only had a few ingredients, which can be found in anyone’s local supermarket. I’m just devo that I can’t smuggle it through Australian customs.
seoul’s many, many, many coffee shops
Evidently people are SERIOUS about coffee here. Every second store front is a coffee shop. Every convenience store has the largest array of iced coffee options you’ll ever see in your life. Every restaurant, café, and fast food joint you can find undoubtedly serves lattes and Americanos (known in my native language as long blacks). A lot of them also have some really funky flavours; for example, I strongly recommend Coffee The Camp’s iced banana cream latte. It sounded almost too funky for me, but as an avid banana cream pie enthusiast, I had to try it. It’s heaven in a cup, truly. Egg Drop has the best hot, black coffee, and you basically can’t go wrong anywhere with an iced latte.
Another great Airbnb experience! We booked a food tour through Gwangjang Market one night and it was incredible. I’m always worried with these things that the vegetarian options will be abysmal—or worse, the vegetarian options won’t be vegetarian after all. But our host was amazing and he showed us a ton of delicious Korean food. All the food at this market is dirt cheap and so good. My favourites were a tie between mung bean pancakes (not pictured) and the kimchi dumplings from Yoonsun Cho’s stall (if you’ve seen Street Food on Netflix you’ll be familiar!).
ALTDIF Tea Tasting Course
This tea tasting course was hands down one of my favourite things we’ve in our entire month-long trip. My partner, who only has one (very specific) type of tea he likes, loved it too. I love the concept of this tea house. Throughout the year, they change their theme; in the past they’ve done literary themes like Alice in Wonderland and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as themes such as wellness and summer. They change their teas to fit each theme. The theme of our tasting was tarot, and each tea we tried reflected a different tarot card. Part of the tea house is taken up by a long bar, where the “tea master” makes fresh tea in front of you; part of the tea house is a showcase of the various products they sell; and part of the tea house is made up of comfy chairs, couches, and a coffee table—their “tea lounge”. We booked through Airbnb because duh and also because Airbnb is the only way to access their English courses; Korean courses can be booked through their website. If you follow me on social media, you’ll already know how obsessed I was with this experience. Highly recommend!
COEX Starfield Library
I’m obsessed with books and bookstores and libraries; my partner can attest to this as I’m always dragging him into our local bookstore under the pretence of “just dropping in for a minute!”. So once I found out about this giant, gorgeous beast of a library, it shot to the top of my to-do list. The library is smack bang in the centre of COEX Mall, a beautiful shopping centre in Gangnam. There are tons of seats and desks to sit at and read or work and there’s even a small English language section. I brought snacks and books and sat here for hours reading and people watching. Heaven! Seeing as we’ve been staying in the university area of Seoul—Mapo-gu—it was a small hike to get here (40 minutes via subway), but well worth the trip.
Hongdae Shopping Street
The best night markets we found are on Seogyo-dong in Mapo-gu. During the day, the street is quiet and relatively empty; at night, it comes alive with shops and stalls and street performances. You can see young people dancing and singing along to K-pop in the busking section of the street and you can buy clothes and souvenirs along the rest of the street. Like everything else in Seoul, the markets are open quite late—it’s a cool place to go find a Korean dessert or bubble tea after dinner.
943 King’s Cross Harry Potter Café
I have a certain annoying habit of seeking out Harry Potter-themed things anywhere I go in the world (much to the chagrin of my friends and family and partner). A lot of the themed things we’ve done in Seoul have been extremely gimmicky and not worth writing home about, but this café was incredible. It has five totally decked-out levels: the basement is a bar decorated like the Hog’s Head Inn; the ground level is the main café with a wand wall and lots of themed souvenirs you can buy; the other levels are decorated to look like the inside of Hogwarts. Even the outside of the café is built to look like King’s Cross Station in London! I was totally in my element. The café has Hogwarts robes and scarves you can try on and take photos in, which, I admit, were kind of gross and extremely worn-in, but fun all the same!