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A Guide to Hack into Korean Nightlife

3 Nov Korean Bar
Korean Bar

The name of this bar is actually Cheong Chun ShiNae

There was this bar that my friends and I used to frequent when I lived in Mokdong.  It became legendary because every time we came there we would meet hilarious, friendly locals that we would share drinks and laughs with.

We came to this bar because we could get good, cheap food.  Lots of beer and soju and more often than not, after a few jugs of beer and two bottles of soju, someone would raise a glass to “chunbae” another table and before long our tables would merge and there would be a lot of broken English and broken Korean.

The decor and food is enough that if you go with a group of your friends and don’t meet any locals, you will have a fun time.  This bar was fun because the ceilings were covered in newspaper style, black and white comic strips.  The walls are decorated with old Korean vinyl record cases.  There were half dozen television screens perpetually playing some weird k-pop music show.  Also, they served “pop-rocks” candy with the soju.  We always assumed that this was the soju chaser.  On top of all of this, they had the best cheesy ddeok-bokki I have had in Korea.  Their pajeon is also notable.

We always called this place the “K-Bar.”  That was not the actual name of the bar, but we called it that because it was our favourite Korean Style bar.  There were a lot of Western style clubs and pubs.  There are also a lot of Chicken Hofs selling fried chicken, beer and soju.  This one was unique in that it had escaped teh Western influence but was not too foreign to us that we felt uncomfortable (In fact, we took Korean friends here and they were shocked that we enjoyed coming here).

We met some hilarious characters here, like the older man whose knowledge of English, I can only guess, encompasses only the lyrics of “We are the world” the 1985 charity song.  There were the young girls that taught me how to “one-shot” makgeolli (a Korean rice wine) and I helped them practice their English.  There was also the pineapple salesman who was selling pineapples to pay for college.

This place was a hilarious introduction to the drinking culture of Korea.  I think that there are many places around Korea that you can create your own “k-bar” in.  I have learned the secret trick to breaking the ice with strangers; it’s as easy as raising a glass and sharing a smile.

I don’t spend a lot of late nights out drinking anymore.  Late nights make wasted morning.  Every once in a while it is a fun laugh though, and Korea is a hilarious place in the wee hours of the morning.  You can get your people watching in and experience a part of Korean culture that is just non existence during the day light hours.

If you are in Mokdong and you want to go to this particular bar, go to Mokdong Station (Line 5) exit 1.  Walk straight for a few minutes and it will be on your left hand side.  Look out for the sign in this post.  When it is warm, there are tables set up outside.  

For Google Map click here

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Sushi Conveyor Belt

29 Oct
Sushi Belt

Guests can sit at the bar while the chefs made sushi and dropped fresh items on to the belt as you eat. There were also lovely ladies who topped up my soup for me whenever I get less than half full.

Sorry for the mini hiatus (I missed Photo Friday!)  Something unfortunate happened last week and I was a little down.  So, in light of cheering up and appreciating all of the positive things in my life, I am going to share something great that happened last week.  Of course, this involves food.

Last week I tried something that has been high on my ‘to do’ list for months: eating at a conveyor belt sushi bar.  In South Korea it is called  회전초밥 (hye cheon cho bap) or revolving sushi.  It was all of my wildest dreams come true.  Yes, all of my wildest dreams involve food.

I went to a Lotte Department store food court to find it.  Lotte Department store is quite fancy and I like eating at their food courts, everything is so pretty there and there is a variety of Korean and International foods.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and saw something that was being brought out to another table and it looked so amazing you had to ask someone what it was so you could order it?  Or more unfortunately, you see something that looks amazing and you have already ordered/received your food and you regretted your decision?  I have done this so many times.  I was also a waitress for years and have seen it happen to a lot of people and my heart always went out for them (you might be thinking that I over think food – if you are I am thinking that you under think it).

The rotating sushi belt was incredible because you could just pick up that plate as it went by.  If it looked delicious, just take it. If you were not too keen to try it, let it pass you by.  You are hungry right away?  Sit down and start grabbing plates.  Eat until you can eat no more, then someone counts up your plates (colour-coded by price) you pay them and then you leave, belly full.

It is brilliant.  There is literally nothing that can put me in a good mood faster than a pleasant meal.  Good company, food, and fast amazing service.

What kinds of things put you in good spirits?

People Watching

6 Oct

 

I saw this family admiring some art that was on display in the park in Hongdae.

I saw this family admiring some art that was on display in the park in Hongdae.

Seoul is a fascinating city for people watching because if you watch for long enough, you are certain to find someone doing something interesting.  Some of my favourite are the ajjeoshis that have had one too many bottles of soju, the ajummas that can carry half their body weight on their backs or heads, or the young couples at various stages in their relationships.

There are also the unique circumstances or people that you encounter.  I have seen music videos, dramas and television commercials being shot.  There are areas that you are sure to see live music or busking on the street.  There are the elderly who have lived through the Korean War and have seen Seoul grow from almost nothing to one of the most populated cities in the world and young kids who cannot imagine there was a world without smart phones and wifi.

While you can take advantage of people watching at any time, in any part of Seoul, here are some of my favourite ways to go about it.

The Han River Park

One of my favourite places to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in Seoul is the Han River Park.  If you get bored of people watching you can read a book, nap, play catch or rent a bike (or roller skates, or a tandem bike).  You will see Seoulites come for the whole day with their friends or families.  They pitch tents and set up camp for an intense day of relaxation and fun.

Head down on your own, or with a group of friends.  You can pack a lunch, buy streetfood, a pizza or chicken to bring down with you.  Bring or buy a picnic blanket, grab some beer, wine or soju at the CVS conveniently located in the park.  This is a classic go to activity on a nice day.

Directions (subway): From Yeouinaru Station Exit 3 or 5, head down to the Han River Park. You cannot miss it!

Hongdae:

Hongdae is a fun area. It is close to a prestigious art college, Hongik University which makes it a gathering place for an interesting group of artists and musicians.  There are lots of cafes, bars and restaurants to set up camp here.  Day or night in Hongdae, you are sure to see something interesting.

Directions: Hongik University Station (line 2), Hapjeong Station (line 2 or 6) or Sangsu Station (line 6)

This little pub reminded me of a hobbit hole.  It also had some comfy chairs outside for people to sit, drink, eat snacks, watch, whatever.

This little pub reminded me of a hobbit hole. It also had some comfy chairs outside for people to sit, drink, eat snacks, watch, whatever.

There are many streets like this in Hongdae that have lost of restaurants and cafes that you can get a coffee, or a meal and sit outside and watch the world.

There are many streets like this in Hongdae that have lost of restaurants and cafes that you can get a coffee, or a meal and sit outside and watch the world.

The Local CVS:

Seoul has no laws against imbibing in public.  At first I thought this would not affect my life. I didn’t really think about it until I went to a Scottish festival on Prince Edward Island last summer. My family and I were sequestered to a tent area with our beer like savages.  I could not see the sheepdog presentations from there and it was a shame.

7eleven, or CU drinking is wonderful because it is outside, there are a variety of drinks avalible and it is cheap.

I know that I said that Han River Park was my favourite, but I retract that statement.  The local 7eleven or CU is my favourite place to hang out and people watch.  The convenience stores in Korea often set up plastic tables and chairs with umbrellas out on the street to encourage people to stay out front to eat and drink.  More often than not, there is a decent selection of local and import beers, soju, makgeolli and wine. Obviously there are many different kinds of snacks to choose from including crackers, chocolate, cookies, ramen and gimbap, for example.

I also love saving money.  The convenience stores sell beer cheaper than you would get it at a bar or restaurant. They also offer imported beers.  Many times the beers offered at a convenience store are much more varied than the average hof.  But they also offer soju, makgeolli and wine. Buying a bottle of wine is usually fairly expensive in a restaurant or bar.  At a convenience store it is the same price you woiuld get it at the super market.

All you need to do is walk around, keep your eye out for a plastic table and chairs, go inside and purchase your snacks then sit back and watch your surroundings.

Directions: Most likely, less than 500 metres from wherever you are in Seoul.

MiniStop

You can find a set up like this on almost every street. There is a plethora of snacks and drinks to choose from in the convenient store. I think this is an activity that cannot be missed if you are visiting South Korea.

If you find yourself in Seoul with nothing to do, or are looking for a relaxing activity, try people watching.  Why do we travel if not to experience a new culture?  What better way to experience a new culture than to watch what people do during their day to day lives.