Mustoy Cafe, Hongdae

As I think I've mentioned before, Korea has a big cafe culture. Particularly, themed cafes. So far we have visited a cat cafe, dog cafe, hello kitty cafe, and a sheep cafe. This time we went to something different. At the Mustoy Cafe in Hongdae, you can color these small little ceramic dolls called Mustoys. while sipping on some coffee or iced tea.

I had read about this cafe online and on a few blogs, and we thought it would be a good activity to do on our last rainy afternoon in Seoul during the Seollal weekend. The cafe is small but cute, with shelves lining the room with many colorful and interesting Mustoys. There aren't many tables but we got a seat before the cafe started getting much busier later in the afternoon.

The owner of the cafe was so friendly and she was really keen to chat to us. She explained to us the process before we could get started. There are a couple dolls you can choose from and they range in price. The dolls are big, small, white, have cat ears, have different head styles, are colorful or even can hold pencils. The prices range from 15 000won to 20 000won, The standard doll is 15 000won and this includes a drink of your choice and the pens you use to color the doll. After we chose our dolls, we were given cards that we could practice our design on. The dolls lining the shelves give you some good inspiration but in the end I decided on the Korean character of Petty. Dean chose to to draw a minion and Marcel a soccer player (which eventually seemed to turn into himself). 

After our preparation, we got started on the fun part. There were so many color pens to choose from and we didn't have to worry about mistakes because you can "rub out" using alcohol and ear buds. It was really peaceful drawing our dolls and listening to the classical music in the cafe. The owner kept walking by to check how we were doing and chat some more. 

When we were finished, our dolls were wrapped up and neatly packaged. I even bought 2 more dolls as part of a gift set which costs 30 000won. The set includes 2 dolls and color markers too. I plan to add Pororo and Doraimon to my collection. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at the Mustoy Cafe and I can highly recommend it if you are looking to do something artsy and relaxing in Seoul.

Directions

We actually struggled to find this place a bit. I had read various instructions online but we still got lost and walked around for quite a while in the rain, Anyway, I found this business card online which gives much clearer directions. When you are in the right street, the cafe is obvious and has a big white doll outside. 

-For more information you can check out their website or here.

Han River Biking

On one of our days off during Seollal, Dean and I went for a tandem cycle along the Han River. It was a great, refreshing and active way to spend an afternoon. We started our ride from just near Yeouido Park We had wanted to go up to the top of Building 63 but unfortunately the sky wasn't so clear, and we didn't think the view would have been great. Hopefully we will still get a chance. 

Anyway, you can rent bikes on an hourly basis. It is 6000won/hr for a tandem and 3000won/hr for a regular bike. 

It was our first time riding tandem and it was good fun. There were so many people spending their day off along the river. people were riding bikes, walking dogs and there were lots of children playing. These are some pictures taken with my camera and of course our selfie pole too. 

4D movies in Korea

A few weeks ago when we visted Seoul for a winter weekend, we checked out a 4Dx movie. This was something completely new to me as we don't have these in South Africa. We watched The Hobbit at CGV in Sinchon and it really was a mind blowing experience. 

We had to go to the morning show as the seats were all sold out in the evening and I definitely would not be able to stay awake for a 1am show. Seeing a movie in the morning feels kind of strange but we weren't complaining as tickets are much cheaper and we paid 12000won each. Booking movies is surprisingly easy for foreigners with the use of CineKorea and it worked perfectly for us. 

We have seen a couple of movies in Jeonju and one thing that is different from the movies in South Africa, are the snacks. Popcorn flavours generally come in caramel or onion and other snacks like dried squid are sold. In Sinchon however, they sold 'gourmet popcorn' including popcorn covered in chocolate and white berry popcorn. I tried the white berry popcorn and it was delicious!!

The 4Dx movie experience was literally amazing!! On top of the 3D graphics, the seats move and shake, water and wind blow in your face and you even experience different smells. The Hobbit was a good choice to check out in 4D as the scenes are dynamic and there is so much opportunity for 4D. I mean you really feel like you are in a fight scene when you are getting punched in the back. 

Watching a 4Dx movie was really worthwhile and I was captivated the whole time. You definitely aren't going to fall asleep in a 4D movie. I definitely wan't to check out a couple more 4D movies before leaving Korea. 

Winter weekend in Seoul

In a last attempt to check out any Christmas spirit in Korea, myself, Dean and our friend Marcel, headed to Seoul the weekend before Christmas. We were hoping, that like most major cities, we would see a substantial "Christmasy" atmosphere with lots of lights and high spirits. Unfortunately we were a bit dissapointed as there was not too much. We still made the most of our time and had some good food and experience some freezing weather. 

We started off our weekend with a stroll along the Cheonggyecheon Stream. The weather was icy but it was really peaceful to walk alongside the river.

We had lunch at Richard Copycat in Itaewon. The restaurant is at the end of the Itaewon "strip" near the High Street Market. It is quite a chic restaurant and kind of reminds me of places in Camps Bay in Cape Town. In summer the restaurant is open air so I can imagine it would be a cool place to hang out. They serve some good food, bottomless drinks, and we enjoyed great sandwiches and burgers. Since visiting I have read some terrible reviews about Richard Copycat on Trip Advisor but I have to disagree with them as our experience there was pleasant. 

In the evening, we checked out the giant Christmas tree near the Seoul City Hall. Just near the tree was some outdoor ice skating. We were really enthusiastic to try it out so we queued up. We stood in the freezing cold for 30 minutes, only to find out we had been in the wrong queue and were actually meant to book a session. The next session was sold out and as we didn't want to hang around for the next 2 hours, we ended up giving the ice skating a miss. The winter weather in Seoul can definitely be mean. The winds were icy and the evening temperature (not including the wind chill) was -10 degrees! 

We ended off our weekend with a 4Dx movie (more on this soon) which was amazing and definitely the highlight of my weekend. 

Wondering the Ihwa Mural Village

On the actual day of Chuseok during our Chuseok in Seoul , we wondered around Ihwa Mural Village. It was a great idea for Chuseok day as many things in Seoul were closed and the Ihwa Mural village is simply an array of murals scattered around a neighborhood. The village is set on Naksan and the neighborhood winds up the “mountain” with many alley ways, steps and steep paths. 

The murals around the Ihwa village were painted as part of a project by the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism in an effort to promote the area and make it a bit of a tourist destination. 

As the area is a real neighborhood and home to many residents, it was peaceful and quiet. It was nice escape to be away from the busyness that is Seoul, so much that it doesn't feel much like you are in Seoul anymore. There were only a few tourists taking pictures and walking around and unfortunately as it was Chuseok, most of the quaint looking cafes were closed. 

As you can tell by this heavy picture-fulled blog post, I definitely recommend a visit to the Ihwa mural village if you are in Seoul. There are many murals to be spotted, and believe it or not, these are only a handful of them. The village is easy to access and just near the Hyehwa subway station. My word of advice is, wear practical shoes as there are many many stairs. 

A bit of Chuseok in Seoul

Chuseok is the main holiday in Korea, similar to American Thanksgiving, and it gave us a 5 day weekend. After umming and arring about what to do over this break, we decided to go to Seoul.  We had not done many touristy things around the city and as most Koreans head to their hometowns, going to Seoul would be against the traffic and less crowded.  Dean’s mom, Sue, had timed her visit perfectly and we were lucky to spend our Chuseok in Seoul with her. We stayed in Dongdaemun which was convenient for most of the places we visited as well as some good shopping! I can’t wait to go back to the Dongdaemun fabric market as well as the baking market nearby as unfortunately these were closed over the long weekend. 

Outside our hotel in Dongdaemun. We started our trip with a visit to one of my favorite areas in Seoul, Insadong. I love the atmosphere in Insadong and all the shops selling such cute things too. This time, we went to a tea house which I have kept meaning to do. We went to Chatjip Teahouse because in my tour books it was said to have finches flying around but unfortunately they got rid of their birds. The tea was still great though!

The men in Insadong performing their song and making one of my favorite Korean treats- Sweet Yong Su Yeom

We paid a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of Seoul’s 5 Grand Palaces, and which is just around the corner from Insadong.  I won’t go into the history about this palace but the grounds are massive and really beautiful. It was much grander and different to the other smaller temples I have visited.  The palace area is relaxing place to stroll around and I loved that there are lakes around the grounds. It is also is very photogenic and makes for lovely picture taking.

Many places were closed on the actual Chuseok day, so we went to Ihwa Mural Village (full blog post to come later) and also the Alive Museum. 

3 of the hundreds of photos we took at the Alive Museum. We had good fun posing for all the funny pictures.

** Thanks to Sue for letting me use some of her lovely pictures. 

July Round-up: Part 1

July was a great month and we had many exciting times during the month. July saw a visit from my mum, our first trip to Seoul and an amazing holiday to Jeju island (more blog posts on Jeju to come soon).

As part of our teaching duties we had to go to Seoul to attend a day-long EBY Talking Club training course. This meant we had to leave Jeonju at 5:30am on a Saturday morning to catch an express bus to Seoul. Luckily one of Dean’s co-teachers also had to attend the training so she could show us the way. The training was at the EBY headquarters and there were only about 10 of us foreign teachers (from all around the country). It was very relaxed and just involved some Korean teachers giving talks on the syllabuses.  It was much better than I expected as we were given some good teaching tips and it definitely inspired me to try be a better teacher and make my lessons more exciting. Another nice thing about the training was that we got to speak to other foreign teachers who work for the same franchise and compare our schools. Most of the other teachers were American or Canadian. It seems Dean and I have a really good deal with the running of our school.  We kept the contacts of the other teachers and may meet up with them in the future if we are ever in their part of the country.

After our training we headed to Itaewon to stay at my dad’s friend, Paul’s, house. His whole family moved to Seoul and they have been there for 5 years. Itaewon is the foreigner area in Seoul and it is filled with many westerners, embassies and huge houses (the CEOS of Samsung and LG live there). It was so weird for us to be there and see westerner families walking in the streets as well as be in house that sort of resembled a typical South African house (it even had a garden).  Paul and his daughter Erin took us to the Seoul Club for dinner. We had delicious hamburgers, a first since our time in Korea. They then took us out to check out the bustling streets of Itaewon. The streets are lined with trendy bars, pubs and restaurants and they were full with people. We definitely saw the most foreigners and westerners we had seen ever in Korea. There seemed to be people from all around the world as we heard all sorts of accents and languages. We went to 2 pubs. One was the “Braai Republic”. A pub/restaurant started by a South African man. It serves all sorts of South African food. We were pleased to have some Savannahs, Castles, biltong and amazing Amarula cheesecake. Being in Itaewon kind of made us wish that we lived in Seoul. The place seems so alive and it’s really nice to not feel like such an outsider. I can’t wait to go back there.

Braai Republic- looks like home

The next day, Paul very kindly took us for a brief tour around Seoul. We visited Insadong, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the old Olympic stadium before we had lunch in Gangnam and then headed back to Jeonju. I really enjoyed the weekend in Seoul and appreciated all the home comforts. The small things like being with dogs (Paul had 3), eating normal cheese and having Mexican food for lunch reminded me of home.

Girls wearing traditional Hanbok clothing in Insadong.

The main street of Insadaong. You can buy lovely trinkets, food and treats.

Dean and Paul watching the performance on how to make the delicious

Insadong traditional sweet Yong Su Yeom. Yong Su Yeom is a treat spun from fine threads of honey and it has a nutty filling.

Dongdaemun Design Plaze from the outside. Bizarre looking building. The inside looks weirdly futuristic.

 

In July we also had Market Day at our schools. This was a really fun day as we didn’t have to work and the kids had a great time. On Market Day the children get to spend “money” that they have earned for good behaviour, hard work etc on all sorts of treats. Dean and I were in charge of the snack rooms.  We also got spoilt with many treats and yummy food. I was given iced noodles for lunch, a really strange meal but quite refreshing.