18 May 2014

Seoul by findingmomo

3/11

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If you happen to be in Seoul, be sure to pay a visit to the weekend flea market in Hongdae set up by the playground. It's called the Free Market on Saturdays and the Hope Market on Sundays. I've been to both markets and they're not very different. They consist of stalls run by artists who sell their crafted goods, ranging from jewelry to pouches to bookmarks.

On my first visit here in 2010 I got to know one of the stall owners, Lucia sonsaengneem (that's teacher in Korean). She's a calligrapher and when she's not conducting classes or involved in fancy dance performances incorporating calligraphy she'll be at the Hope Market writing personalized messages in traditional Hangul script. Her writing style is so distinctive I even recognized one of her banners hanging in a Korean restaurant in Singapore. She's one of the coolest and friendliest people I know.

Anyway, I digress. But only because we ran into her here haha. I love the energy here and I'm sure you will as well, whoever you are.

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Remember I said they were out of honeycomb chips at Softree? I also said this was the IT food of the moment, so it made sense that there were 1000 other joints that had sprouted throughout Seoul offering honeycomb soft serve.

Managed to get my grubby paws on some honeycomb here at Milky Bee. We were pleasantly surprised that the ice-cream here was on par with Softree's. I'd heard rumors that these honeycomb chips contained paraffin, but all caution flew out the window the moment I bit into one. Mmmm these were so, so good, though the excess of honey did get a little cloying towards the end.

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We went back to our apartment to welcome Lee, and celebrated her arrival by taking a group nap.

When we awoke it was time for dinner. I dragged them to Bukchon for some handmade mandus (dumplings), only to find out that the restaurant closed early on Sunday evenings. The ajumma who greeted us offered us 15 minutes to wolf down a pot of dumpling soup. I declined politely.

We then headed to Insadong in search of dinner, settling eventually on jjimdak (stewed chicken in soy sauce) at Yeolbong Jjimdak. No pictures of that because oops.

Insadong is not my favorite area in Seoul because of how contrived it seems. I feel like Korea, much like Hong Kong, is a society where culture is so deep-rooted that the old exists alongside the new, so I don't see why there's a need for a man-made cultural enclave. Meh. Anyways, this place features plenty of traditional street performances and souvenirs.

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Lotte Mart at Seoul Station sells everything. I'm talking hedgehogs and beetles. It's also the nearest hypermart to Hongdae via train (two stations away on the AREX line) so I've spent a lot of time here. On one of the two occasions I didn't stay in Hongdae when I was in Seoul, I stayed across the road from this Lotte Mart. I think this may be one of my favorite places on the planet.

C&L also took this chance to buy every single brand of makgeolli (Korean rice wine) they could find for a "tasting session".

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Fried chicken places are everywhere in Korea. We were craving some on our way home. So we headed for a drinking establishment formerly known as "Reggae Chicken", only to be told by the waitress that they didn't serve chicken. This would all be fine except that the waitress was the same one whom I had ordered chicken from on my previous five or six visits to the same place. Confusing.

We went next to a random eatery down the road nearer to our apartment. The restaurant was small, dimly lit and had a wooden interior. Save for a rowdy group of middle-aged folks sitting at a table we had the place all to ourselves. The ajumma frying the chicken started doing this odd clapping routine over the chicken while the chicken was cooking. It was all a little bizarre, but we'd ordered it to go so all we had to do was to wait it out for a while.

The chicken turned out to be amazing. Whatever the ajumma was doing, it made the bird crisp, moist and overall one of the best tasting fried chicken I've had. With our mouths full of fried chicken we critiqued contestants on a plastic surgery reality programme that was playing on cable. Good times.

Oh the random picture of the cafe with a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf is of Cafe Comma which we passed on the way home. I've been meaning to visit the cafe for the last few years. Hasn't happened yet and I'm not sure if it ever will, but it's a pretty place isn't it?