16 May 2014

Seoul by findingmomo

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By the time our train pulled into central Seoul from Incheon Airport dusk was settling over the city. We alighted at Hongik University station where everything looked, sounded and felt familiar. I stay there whenever I'm in Seoul because it's one of the stations along the Airport Express line. It's a pain in the ass dragging your luggage through a station with high human traffic, but the apartment I always rent is connected to one of the exits so at least it's sheltered all the way.

Our landlady happened to be out for dinner when we reached but she got her son to show us to our apartment. We were on the tenth storey of a building overlooking the main intersection of busy Hongdae. I stood in the darkened apartment, taking in the flashing lights across the road, and listening to the faintly pulsating music muted by the glass windows. I pushed open one of the windows as far as it would go, inhaling the chilly night air which rushed into the room. It sure felt good to be back.

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Invigorated (or maybe just feeling less like zombies) by a 30-minute long nap, we headed across the road for dinner. I brought Charlotte to where I'd brought the rest to eat on our previous trips - Mukshidonna (먹쉬돈나). It's a rice cake stew and you get to choose what goes inside. We got the seafood and cheese options and I added the chewy noodles you see in the picture below.

Spicy rice cakes or ddeokbokki are a street snack found commonly on the streets of Korea. Unlike most other street snacks they're available throughout all seasons. I'm usually not a fan of ddeokbokki because it's tasteless and rubbery... except at Mukshidonna. Here the rice cakes are soft and pillowy, and drenched in a slightly sweet and spicy sauce. Amazing.

Charlotte seemed to like the dish as much as the others did, which made me secretly happy. Yeah no idea why. It's not like I cooked it. Also we paid only about SGD7 each. Apart from having to watch a couple at the next table struggle to eat with one hand each while having their free arms intertwined around each other's waists, I would say it was an immensely satisfying meal.

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After two people consume enough food for three it's always a good idea to walk around for a bit. The winding streets of Hongdae leading uphill from the intersection to the university form a delightful maze. The weather was perfect for wandering around and doing a bit of shopping. Being an area known for its nightlife there are also restaurants and drinking places everywhere.

As you can see I entertained myself by taking a mirror selfie while waiting for Charlotte to be done with her shopping. This was one of two outfits I brought with me to Korea for 9 days. Girls, there's no point in packing a set of clothes for every day you're here because you'll have no luggage space for when you return. Two years ago I outdid myself by not bringing my luggage along - I boarded the plane with the clothes I was wearing and checked in a small bag with only my toiletries in it.

Subsequent entries will be less frivolous.

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Made a beeline (haha) for Softree, a store famous for the IT food of the moment, soft serve ice-cream topped with chunks of honeycomb (see why i haha-ed earlier. K sorry). They put up a sign saying they were out of honeycomb till 31 May!!! UGH

So I settled for a funky flavor called "It's Magic Lamp", which was a cone with caramel-nut ice-cream and a caramel core. To top it all off the ice-cream was coated with crushed nuts. It was delicious but a bit much. Well... can't say that that's anyone's fault but mine.

On Friday and Saturday nights in Hongdae you'll see street buskers everywhere. We stopped and listened for a while to this Caucasian lady strumming her guitar and singing an English song to a crowd of rather dispassionate onlookers, until she started making my ice-cream and I feel inferior with her beautiful voice.