Anna’s Visit to Seoul!

Talk about a whirlwind weekend!  From Friday at 1pm until Sunday at 5:40pm it was go-go-go!  My feet are sore, and my credit card is silently crying in my wallet from abuse.  I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since we’ve last seen each other face to face!  After writing up one day I realized that this would be the mother of all massive posts.  So instead of boring you with one huge posts, I’m going to separate out the weekend by day and put up three posts on consecutive days.  Look forward to the next two!

Who is Anna you might ask?  Well, Anna and I first met as pen-pals when I was in grade 10 and she was in grade 11.  We used to communicate though…wait for it….actual paper letters!  That’s right, we were friends back when people used to send letters in the mail!  We’ve known each other almost 10 years and have met in person three times now.  The first when she was living in San Diego studying English and came to Canada to spend Christmas with my family.  The next year I flew to Japan for 10 days during my February break at university and we travelled around the Honshu area of Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Nikko, and Tochigi).  I’ll be going back to Japan in May for her wedding, but there will be more posts on that in the future.  For now, on to the weekend!

She actually got off the subway at 12:55pm, exactly 5 minutes before my class ended, so it was perfect timing!  I met her at Cafe 83 (just down the road from Sogang University) and brought her to my place to drop off her bag.  We also exchanged small Christmas gifts that we’ve been holding on to for a while.  I gave her a collection of things including some Korean cosmetics, a cute little coin purse shaped like a song bird, a pair of kitty socks, a mineral sample (desert rose), and a goodie bag of Korean teas and snacks.

And this is my awesome stash from Anna!  I’ve always had a fondness for Japanese Pocky.  When I was in Japan, I made it my goal to buy a box (or several boxes) of Pocky from each city we visited.  Apparently Anna remembered this, and filled much of her small carry-on suitcase with boxes of Pocky.  My favourites (based on their boxes) would have to be the Panda Pocky, and the Strawberry Pocky with heart shaped cookie-sticks.

Included in my stash was also a cute red coin purse with rabbits on it (one of my favourite Japanese designs), a canister of Japanese green tea, and the most AMAZING pair of knee high room socks e-va!  We both shared a laugh on how we both bought each other a purse and a pair of socks.  Great minds thing a like after all!

We immediately set out to explore!  But first was lunch ^^  Sadly, Friday was a touch on the brisk side.  And by brisk, I mean it was -14°C when I woke up that morning, and there was a chilling wind as well.  We went to one of my favourite 찌개 (jjigae – stew) restaurants in 이대 (Edae) – Food Cafe.  Stop laughing!  Thus far, they’ve made my favourite 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae – kimchi stew) that I’ve had in Seoul.  Anna ordered 순두부 찌개 (sundubu jjigae – soft tofu stew) and I ordered 된장찌개 (doenjang jjigae  – soybean stew).  We talked about everything Anna wanted to see in the short time she was in Seoul.  She showed me a page from her Japanese travel book with some food she wanted to try.  Of which included 봉어빵 (bungeoppang – fish-shaped pastries).

Well!  On our way out of Edae towards 남대문 시장 (Namdaemun shijang – Namdaemun Market) I directed her down what I like to call ‘Street Food Street‘ (the main strip out side of the Edae subway.  It’s lined with food vendors!) and bought her a bag of bungeoppang).  She liked the custard filled ones the best.

Namdaemun Market was very busy that Friday.  Possibly because everything was going to be closed the next few days.  We spent a few hours browsing our way through the maze of buildings and stalls.  Sometimes we went outside for a jaunt…only to be reminded of the biting cold by the numbness in our fingers.  We then hurried back into one of the adjacent buildings and sought out warmth ^^

We did find this interesting thing while we were going around Namdaemun…I am very curious as to what ‘Hahu Canada Sports’ is!  Not only is the hat made in Korea, I also could not find any information on it on the internets.  I want to know if the Canadian symbol has been stolen by a marketing agency in Korea ^^

On our way out of Namdaemun, we decided to stop by the Shinsegae Department Store  in 회현역 (hoehyeon yeok  – Hoehyeon Station).  To get to Shinsegae in the station you don’t even need to go outside!  Simply follow the signs towards exit 7 and you’ll walk right by it.  We only browsed the first few levels, because let’s face it…it was 15 floors where we couldn’t afford a thing.  Take this gift basket of fruit for example.

We took the Hoehyeon line to 홍대역 (hongdae yeok – Hongdae Station) and went off to Cloris Tea and Coffee to warm up and take another look at Anna’s guide book.  She really liked the atmosphere inside the cafe.  We were originally going to try and find 콩불 (Kongbul), a restaurant that specializes in a dish by the same name (kong from kongmul [soybean sprouts] and bul from bulgogi [marinated beef]), but we couldn’t find an address on line and it was too cold to go wandering around in the dark.  Instead we decided to try a different restaurant recommended by her book.  (Trying kongbul is now on my list of foods to eat before I leave Korea!)

That led us to the door of 국대 떡볶이 (Gukdae Ddeokbokki).  Much like a street vendor, the menu was on the wall, and gloriously cheap. It’s also one of the places where I can now read the entirely in Korean menu!!  (granted there was only 7 items on it and it was written on the wall…progress is progress ^^)

We decided on an order of 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki – a food Anna was interested in trying), 우돈 (udon), and 튀김 (twigim).  I loved how cheap our supper cost us.  The ddeokbokki and twigim cost 2,500원 each and the udon cost 3,000원.  This mean we each paid only 4,00원 to eat supper.  Anna found the ddeokbokki to be too spicy, which made me vow to take her to a real ddeokbokki restaurant before she left so she could see how good ddeokbokki could be.  The udon was really good here!  Besides being cheap, it was a large bowl with a piece of shrimp twigim in it.  Speaking of the twigim, the selection here was pretty good.  Over all, I was very happy with this small restaurant.

If you’re interested in checking out Gukdae Ddeokbokki don’t both Googling it.  I’ve tried and you get back useless results.  The easiest way (besides typing in 국대 떡볶이 to Google Maps, which gives great directions to the many different locations all over Seoul) to get to the location in Hongdae would to be leave Hongik University Station through exit 9, walk straight and take your first left (leading towards Hongik University).  Keep walking towards Hongik University, and then take your third left.  Gukdae Ddeokbokki is a short way in and you should see it pretty quickly on the right-hand side of the street.

After we had finished eating it was already after 8pm.  We decided to call it a day and headed back to my place.  While we were getting ready for bed, I also started to pick her brain as to what would be the easiest and best area for me to stay when I would be going to Japan in May.  It was a lot of work looking up affordable places, but in the end we found one!  I’m going to be staying in Tokyo ^^

See you tomorrow!

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