Author Archives: Crystal Wee

Autumn in Seoul – 5 Spots to Catch the Fall Foliage

My stay in Korea last year encompassed many firsts in my life – flying alone, living independently of my family, solo travelling… and autumn. My first genuine autumn after 21 years of stale summer in Singapore. It was the season where I never felt like staying indoors, the season where everything seemed to have a sentimental value to it, the season where memories of rough summer days were awashed by freshness. 

In this post I’m sharing a few spots where I saw some unforgettable scenes of fall foliage in Seoul. I’ve actually picked and edited the photos in this post eons ago, but I missed the timing to write it, and eventually resorted to waiting close to a year to get this up. The best time for sight-seeing of foliage in Seoul is from the last week of October to the first week of November!

1. Haneul Park

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Nearest train station: World Cup Stadium

One of the 5 parks of the World Cup Park, Haneul directly translates to ‘Sky’, it’s name befitting of its location on the highest part of the World Cup Park on a hill. To get up, you can either pay a small fee for a tram or climb up 291 steps of stairs. I recommend the latter for the views on the way up, and also since the weather will not make you break out in a sweat. 

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I can’t remember how I first came to know about this park, but when my first time there was actually in the transition phase of Spring to Summer. During that time, the park was not crowded in the slightest bit and filled with mostly green plants, with occasional splashes of colours from planted flowers. Visiting again but in autumn was a different thing altogether – throngs of people (both locals and tourists) and the rich luscious colours of fall created a lovely bustling atmosphere.

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The two most representative plants at the park in autumn are the silver grass and pink muhly grass – though you may find them at spots all over Korea, the fields at Haneul Park are expansively planted with them and divided into specific zones. The best time to go would be at sunset, when the park is tinged with soft, golden light.

2. Campus Tour – Yonsei University

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Nearest train station: Sinchon

Having attended Yonsei University for a short semester, I’ve seen the transition from late summer green to autumn yellow, orange and red like a time-lapse video. The day-to-day anticipation was fluttering, and slightly kept me energised for lessons even. 

Most people know about the main pedestrian path of the school that starts from the main gate and that leads right all the way in to the heart of the school – in autumn, the gingko trees that neatly line this main road turn yellow. However, I preferred the foliage found deep in the remainder of the school – the gingko trees are larger and more densely grown with leaves and more fall colours can be spotted. I snapped these two photos on an uphill road that serves as a side entrance to the school. 

3. Seoul Forest

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Nearest train station: Seoul Forest

When I finally had the time to go to Seoul Forest with my camera, the weather had become much chillier (necessitating a winter jacket) and the season was about to come to its end. While thinking to myself if I had made the wrong choice in making a futile journey, I chanced upon a vast field of yellow fallen leaves. Bare trees grew interspersedly, while the afternoon sun cast their long shadows cast all across the field of yellow, creating a brilliant canvas. I spent a good amount of time there, before moving on and picking out the remaining trees in autumn bloom. A good number of maple trees were still bearing red crowns, thankfully.

P.S. Along Seoulsup-gil which is just right outside the park, there is a small cafe district that I feel is worth heading to after a stroll in the park. 

4. Seodaemun Independence Park

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Nearest train station: Dongnimmun

The fall foliage at this park was an unexpected and surprising find. I alighted at Dongnimmun Station in hopes of finding the path through Ansan Park that would lead me up to Ansan Mountain, but didn’t manage to do so. 

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Instead, I found myself at Seodaemun Independence Park (did not even know the name of the park at that time), an important historic cultural site serving as a remembrance of Korean liberation activists during the Japanese colonial period. It is also the grounds of the Seodaemun Prison History Hall and Museum which was used to hold Korean independence fighters captive. 

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Several other monuments were erected in the park, and there were also many spaces provided for recreational and family activities. The historical site, together with the background of lush foliage in varying colours, created a grandiose sight.

5. Gyeongbokgung

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Nearest Station: Gyeongbokgung

Oh, the classic spot that I just couldn’t leave out of this post, no matter how well-known it already is. There are many spots to admire the fall foliage in the Gyeongbokgung premises and the surrounding neighborhoods, but one of my favorites is that along Hyoja-ro. Running along the West Wall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the road is methodically planted with gingko trees which turn bright yellow in autumn, and runs through a few neighborhoods like Hyoja-dong, Changseong-dong and Tongui-dong. Compared to the grounds of the palace and the very touristy neighborhoods on the East of the palace (where Bukchon and Samcheong-dong are), the West side is less crowded (with the exception of Tosokchon Samgyetang) and allows you to take in the foliage in a more tranquil manner. 

On the other side of Hyoja-ro, you can expect to find small museums, galleries and cafes, from which you can get a view of the foliage too.

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And to Each Season, Gwangju 광주 카페 앤투잋시즌

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On that fine Monday afternoon, the city of Gwangju was oddly quiet. It was my first time stepping foot there, and I realized a little too late that I made a miscalculated move of visiting on a day when many cafes and stores in general were closed. Good thing, that one café I really wanted to visit was opened and my friend whom I went to see in Gwangju kindly brought me there.

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Situated in the café district of Yangnim-dong, And To Each Season opened in summer last year, a permanent spin-off from a design company cum café created by the owner to concentrate on serving coffee.

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Heading right in to the cozy nook of the café, the atmosphere was that of a tiny, snug cottage. I could tell that extra attention was put into the layout and details of the interior. Later, I found out that the furniture is mostly recycled, refurbished and mended by the owner from thrown out furniture… impressive.

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What also caught my eye was the ordering sheet for drinks. On a small piece not much larger than a name card, various options to customize your coffee are presented: First, pick your choice of beans from Brazil (Cerrado NY2), Guatemala (Antigua SHB) or Ethiopia (Yirgacheffe G1). Second, pick your caffeine intensity to be strong or basic. Third, cold or iced. And lastly, your type of coffee – Americano (5000KRW), Latte (5000KRW), or Deep Vanilla (5000KRW). The latte I got was very satisfiable, with the right amount of acidity and flavor I would like in my coffee.

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For non-coffee drinkers, Matcha (6000KRW) and seasonal fruit teas are also offered on the order sheet.

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Since the space was small and trapped sounds easily, I was more than delighted to have the entire café to ourselves, watching the stillness of the neighborhood from translucent white curtains that led in diffused sunlight. Perhaps visiting on a Monday was not such a bad idea after all.

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198-1 Yangnim-dong, Nam-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

12-6pm on weekdays, 12-9pm on weekends

Avec El Shop & Cafe, Seoul 서울 카페 아베크엘

The original text in English was first posted on DanielFoodDiary.com.

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아베크엘은 몇 년 전부터 정말 가 보고 싶었던 카페인데 저번 초겨울의 12월에 드디어 방문했다. 한 번도 아니고 그 한 달에 두 번 갔다.

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특히 첫 방문이 또렷이 기억난다.  온도가 영하8도인 날씨에 칼바람과 싸우던 내 초라한 모습. 서울역에서 후암동에 위치한 카페까지 걷던 오르막길들. 암튼 카페 문 열린 시간 직전에 도착했으니 다행이었다. 카페 내부 사진 많이 찍으려고 했으니까. 창가 자리도 잡으려고.

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내부는.. 뭐라고 할까.. 완전 취향저격. 일단 인테리어 자체는 새하얀 톤으로 했기에 넘 깔끔하고 맘에 쏙 든다. 게다가 미니멀한 소품으로 가득한 카페의 구석구석은 아기자기하며 매력적이었다. 마치 이케아 쇼룸처럼? 소품들 중 직접 살 수 있는 것도 있었던 것 같다.

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여긴 계절에 따라 계절적인 과일이 들어간 디저트가 특징이다. 그때 겨울이었으니 시즌 한정된 디저트는 다 딸기가 들어가 있더라.

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첫 방문 때 메이플라떼 (6000KRW)랑 눈길을 제일 끌어당긴 베리베리토스트 (7000KRW)를 시켰다. 시즌 한정 베리베리토스트는 토스트랑 위에 풍부하게 올려진 베리콤포트, 치즈크림, 딸기의 조합이 상큼달콤했다!

avecel11 메이플라떼는 메이플시럽이 들어가 있었기 땜에 커피가 달달하고 커피 맛 안 셌다.

avecel7 옆에 있었던 두 테이블의 여자분들이 나와 같은 토스트를 시켰는데 동시에 서서 토스트 사진 찍는 게 너무 웃기더라. 아마 반투명한 커튼으로 비쳐 들어온 그 날의 햇빛이 예뻐서 더 열심히 찍었던 것 같다.

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그리고 두 번째 방문은 3개 시켰다. 사실 딸기티라미수 (7000KRW)는 티라미수처럼 안 생겼다고 딸기 사이사이에 스펀지케이크 레이어 있었으면 좋겠다고 생각했다. 그럼에도 불고하고 상큼한 딸기가 맛있었다.

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햇빛이 비치면 비주얼이 빤짝빤짝거리는 딸기소다 (7000KRW). 생각보다 달콤했지만 워낙 단 걸 좋아해서 좋았다.

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딸기로 너무 오버할까 봐 시즌 드저트가 아닌 홍차쉬퐁케이크 (6500KRW)도 시켰다. 얼그레이 맛 살짝 나니까 담백한 케이크였다.

싱가폴에 돌아온데도 인스타 활동을 꾸준히 하니까 아베크엘의 2점 (메이종아베크엘)이 생긴다는 소식도 알게 됐다. 사실  올해의 5월에 서울에 여행하러 갔지만 시간이 모자라 못 갔음.

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서너 번 가더라도 지루함이 아예 느껴지지 않을 아베크엘 카페.

대한민국 서울특별시 용산구 후암동 41-1

12-8시, 일요일 휴무

Bibibidang, Busan – Traditional Korean Teahouse with a Scenic Sea View 부산 전통 찻집 비비비당

bibibidang7After a quick brunch at a café in the Haeundae district of Busan, I had planned to have dessert at Bibibidang, which happens to be located in a building nearby on the same road (Dalmaji-gil). It turns out that the entire building is managed by the same brand, with each level showcasing a different concept.

bibibidang6 Bibibidang, occupying the 4th floor of the building, is a traditional Korean tea house and dessert café that had opened its doors since 2012. Till today, it retains its popularity much thanks to the amazing view overlooking the East Sea from the café itself.

bibibidang3The name of the café has origins that are as interesting as its name sounds. In Buddhist cosmology, there exist 3 realms in which the highest point of attainment is termed 非想非非想天(bi-sang-bi-bi-sang-cheon in Korean romanization). This point is where all desires are overcome and is also said to be the equivalent of enlightenment. Thus, Bibibidang (a direct translation to Chinese would be 非非非堂), represents a space where one can dream of transcending that point.

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Being ushered in by a smartly uniformed waiter, I was surprised to find that the space was much more spacious than I expected, and that the scenic sea view could be seen from nearly every dining table. The café was further divided into a main hall with modern tables and chairs and a few Hanok style rooms with wooden floors, low dining tables and cushion seats. I went for the hanok-style table by the window.

On the menu, a wide variety of hot and cold teas including green teas, yellow teas, flower teas, grass field and mountain teas can be found.

bibibidang1However, instead of tea, I went for a popular dessert on the menu, the Sweet Pumpkin Bingsu (10,000KRW). Meant for 1 person’s portion, the bingsu was plated delicately on a wooden tray, together with small piece of tea confectionery (called dashik) on the side. Unlike any of the bingsus I’ve had, the top layer was slathered generously with sweet sauce, giving a sticky consistency. The shaved ice, a pure bright natural pumpkin orange, contained real chunks of pumpkin within, giving a rich and intense flavor.

bibibidang4 Another popular item on the menu is the Red Bean Porridge (8000KRW), perfect as a warm treat in winter.

bibibidang9Very much reluctant to leave the serenity of the café, I stayed for as long as my self-planned itinerary would permit. Perhaps one of the most peaceful time I’ve spent in a café.

4F, 239-16 Dalmaji-gil, Jung-dong, Haeundae, Busan, South Korea

11am to 10pm daily (except Mondays)

Choryang 845, Busan – Cafe and Restaurant with Comfort Food and View 부산 카페 맛집 초량 845

choryang845I’ve long heard of both cafes Choryang 1941 and Choryang 845 – the former being the first established outpost and the latter a new business concept and expansion by the same folks.

Café Choryang 1941 sits within an old Japanese house built in 1941 during the Japanese colonial period, hence its name. Meanwhile, the restaurant-café Choryang 845 is brilliantly (or effortlessly) named after its location itself, being situated in 845-1 Choryang-dong, a quiet, non-touristy neighborhood in Busan.

choryang84511Despite being on a hill in a less accessible district, getting there was fuss-free since there were direct buses running to and from Busan subway station and Choryang subway station, with not much walking required.

choryang1choryang2choryang4Amazing light and shadows in this biscuit store. Got some sesame crackers back.

Choryang 845 is situated within a building that houses a couple of shops and galleries which I browsed around, being attracted to the raw and minimalistic designs they bore. When I finally entered the café premises, I was in awe at how an old factory container was remodeled into the current chic space of the café. It was hard to grasp the design concept from the mismatched furniture yet it didn’t make me feel unsettled.

choryang84513choryang8459choryang8458I immediately picked a table right by the extensive glass windows. On that clear sunny day with no traces of micro dust in the air, the view overlooking the residential neighborhood of Choryang was comforting.

choryang8455There were separate sites for ordering food and drinks (+pastries). I ordered the Yuzu Hibiscus Tea (7,000KRW) from the barista by the coffee machine and it came in two pretty layers of red and yellow; I ordered the Korean Set Lunch (13,000KRW) that comes with rice and a variety of side dishes from the counter right in front of the kitchen.

choryang8456When I was there, I didn’t have time to look up what I was eating so I only recently looked them up again and translated them to English. Looking back at this list, I was reminded of how clean and healthy each dish tasted and how the entire set came together as a wholesome meal. My kind of comfort food for the soul.

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(Mainly for my reference since the side dishes change seasonally)

  • Perilla Seeds & Radish Leaf Soup
  • Multigrain Rice
  • Beef Brisket (on a bed of salad)
  • Glazed Sweet Potatoes
  • Paprika (napa) Cabbage Roll (with Yuzu dressing)
  • Vegetable & Mushroom Pancake (made with Kale, Cabbage, Carrot, Shiitake Mushrooms)
  • Kimchi (Napa Cabbage)
  • Seaweed Salad (topped with dried persimmon)
  • Tofu with Vegetables

Other than the set meal, other main courses like pastas and rice dishes are also on the menu, but I would skip the other mains and go for the luxurious set meal again. Regrettably, I didn’t manage to grab dessert at Choryang 1941, but I know I will be back to explore more of this quaint neighborhood.

choryang84512845-1 Choryang-dong, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea

11am – 9pm daily (except Wednesdays)

5 Places I visited in Gangneung

gangneung16This short trip to the coastal city of Gangwon-do was an impromptu decision made just a week in advance, and it was really impromptu for someone like me who likes to have ample time to plan trips ahead.

gangneung17We arrived at night in a city, oddly quiet right from the radius of the KTX station itself. The walk to our AirBnB apartment (link here) opposite the station was slightly eerie with dimly lit paths and no one in sight – I couldn’t imagine if I had to be alone then. Thankfully, we arrived to a small but clean, cosy and warm (especially with the ondol floor) apartment that we liked immediately. I had a pretty good 2 nights of sleep despite sleeping on a floor mattress.

  1. BTS Bus Stop – Jumunjin Beach

gangneung1gangneung2Early in the morning, we headed out to our furthest destination on our roughly planned itinerary – Jumunjin Beach. From Gangneung KTX station, the ride by a public bus took about 45mins and we arrived at a near empty beach that morning.

gangneung12gangneung3While we were there, we also took a mandatory shot at the BTS Bus Stop (not an ARMY, but I have been listening to their music since I started listening to kpop).

  1. Jumunjin Breakwater

gangneung4Our next stop, Jumunjin Breakwater, was a tricky one to get to from Jumunjin Beach due to the odd intervals bus arrival times. Eventually, we gave up waiting for the bus and took one hour on foot to arrive at the breakwater. It was a decision we half-regretted – the walk along the coast was soothing initially until our weak bodies started to feel the physical toll.

gangneung14When we reached, I picked the most decent looking restaurant (called Lobstar) on the spot and entered. From the second level of the restaurant, there was a clear view of the several breakwaters extending out into the aquamarine sea. This included the specific breakwater that appeared in drama Goblin – it’s easily identifiable with a line of people waiting to snap some photos there.

  1. Ojukheon

After lunch and a mandatory photo op, we hopped back on a bus to Ojukheon, feeling ever so relieved that we didn’t wait long for it. This attraction is the birthplace and residence of historical figures Shin Saimdang and Yulgok Yi I – try to find them on the 5000KRW note and 50,000KRW note. Also spotted some beautiful trees in the color transition phase.

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  1. Sonamujib Chodang Soondubu – 354-4 Chodang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do

From Ojukheon, we went to Seongyojang House and spent a very short 15 minutes there before moving on to our planned dinner venue, the Chodang-dong Soondubu Village. By this time, we got pretty jaded from the bus rides and switched to taxis to commute. The ride by cab to the village took less than 15 minutes.soontofugelato1soontofugelato2

I found out about this village from a friend who highly recommended me the famous soondubu gelato from a store in the village. The unlucky me stumbled upon the ice cream store’s break time as soon as we arrived, so we took a detour on foot to the nearby Gangmun Beach (~15 mins walk) before returning.

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We ordered the Soondubu Gelato (3500KRW) and Halla Green Tea Gelato (3500KRW) to share. Tofu has been one of the most essential food in my life (I eat it almost everyday) so I was excited and had high expectations for the soondubu gelato especially. With its smooth texture, aromatic fragrance of tofu and light yet distinctive soondubu flavor, it hit my expectations easily. The green tea gelato was forgettable, on the other hand.

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Unsure of which restaurant in the village served the best soondubu, we ate at the same restaurant which operated the gelato store to play it safe. The tofu here reminded me of the tofu my grandmother used to make.

  1. Nov 12 Café – 5 Gangneung-daero 202beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon-do. 12pm – 9pm daily except Wednesdays

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Nov 12 was a charming café and pit stop on the way to Gangneung’s Jungang Market that we looked up online and visited on the spot due to freedom of time on our second day.

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This small cosy nook, with its white walls and wooden furniture-filled interior, won our approval from the start when we entered as the first customers of the day.

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I had a Latte (5000KRW) and Chocolate Chip Scone (3500KRW), both of which were decently good. Turns out that the beans used are from Manufact Coffee.

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I usually visit the Jungang Market as a final stop in each city in Korea and try a couple of snacks from stores that boast long queues. At Gangneung Jungang Market, I tried the garlic bun – the best one I’ve ever tried.

Daejeon Cafe-hop – Halfrest, 100sheets 대전 카페 하프레스트, 백시트

A short 26 hours in Daejeon, a city known for its research institutes and its being at the crossroads of transport lines running in South Korea. Getting around the city was just as fuss-free as getting to it by a 1-hour ride on the KTX. The sole subway line takes you to most places you will need to go, and you can count on buses to get to less accessible neighborhoods (though frequencies of buses vary).

On top of visiting the usual tourist spots (Skyroad, Daedong Sky Park, Expo Park & Bridge, Yuseong Foot Spa and Sungsimdang Bakery), I squeezed in time for just 2 cafes that were on my list.

Halfrest

482-5 Oncheon 2(i)-dong, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, South Korea

12pm to 10pm daily (except Tuesday)

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Just a short walk away from KAIST and Chungnam University is Café Halfrest, which is also accessible from Yuseong Spa subway station by a 15min walk. Note that the café is not visible from the main road – you’ll have to turn into a small alley to get you to the other side.

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The atmosphere in the café was very much soothing, and I believe the part-Scandinavian interior played a huge role in that. We managed to grab the best seat in the house – a round table lined with white linen tablecloth, flanked by rattan and wooden chairs with white seat cushions.

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Coffee here was decent, but compared to the Café Latte (4000KRW) we had, the Apple Earl Grey Tea (5500KRW) was more memorable for me, thanks to its sweet and refreshing taste.

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We also chose the Madeleine (2500KRW) and Apple Crumble (5500KRW) from the small selection of pastries available. Both were good, especially the apple crumble despite it not being heated up.

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After our tea break, we walked down the main road to Yuseong Foot Spa, a natural hotspring for your feet that is open free of charge to the public. Amidst receiving looks of wonder from the all-native crowd at the hot spring, I rested and recharged my feet in the relaxing outdoors of this small city.

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100sheets

2F, 36 Daeheung-ro 121beon-gil, Daeheung-dong, Jung-gu, Daejeon, South Korea

12pm – 10pm daily

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I first discovered this café on Instagram and told my friend that we just have to visit – you can see why from the interior itself.

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After a flight of stairs to the second floor, I came face to face with the vast expanse of café space. Except for the concrete floor, every corner was white-washed, and together with the windows letting in a good amount of sunlight, it felt like heaven to me.

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Being the first customer of the day, I basked in a good 10-15mins of photo-taking time before the café became slowly filled, and before I finally decided on my order.

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Feeling slightly adventurous, we ordered the Strawberry Latte (5,500KRW), not knowing how it would look like, and the more ordinary Lime and Lemon Soda (5,500KRW). The strawberry latte turned out having a higher ratio of pink than expected, and a more artificial shade of pink than what I had imagined. Perhaps a regular cup of white coffee would’ve been better.

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Since they brand themselves as a “pancake club”, we just had to try the pancakes here for ourselves. We opted for the Fresh Fruit Pancake (13,000KRW) that came topped with seasonal fruits and ice cream. From its aesthetically pleasing visuals, I was expecting a fluffy texture but unfortunately it tasted too moist and eggy. Sigh.

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I also got a sandwich which came stuffed with a generous amount of spam and vegetables but felt like it was something I could easily make at home.

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Not gonna lie, I left feeling disappointed with the food. Well, at least the photos turned out good, and I was on a relaxing weekend trip.

Jeonju in Fall

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Jeonju had been that one city I’ve been wanting to visit. Seems like the countless of mentions of Jeonju bibimbap and hanoks in Korean language textbooks do their magic. And so, during my exchange in Korea, I thankfully got to visit in fall, when the fall foliage was at its peak (to be exact, I was there during the first few days of November). I believe this time is the best to travel around in Korea for cooling weather (~8 to 16oC) and the colors of fall. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my tips and experiences.

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I arrived at my Jeonju accommodation on Friday night, which was a hostel providing private rooms booked on AirBnB. Despite the need to commute to the main tourist areas by bus for a few stops (Note: no trains in the city) and the slight rundown appearance on the outside, the room was very cheap, spotless and came with a tv, attached bathroom, humidifier and portable aircon. The owner is also experienced with foreigners. (Will provide the exact link if you request it from me!)

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The next morning, I headed down to the main attraction in Jeonju, which undisputedly is the Jeonju Hanok Village. With its vast expanse of hanok houses, even the Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul seems insignificant. Most of the other attractions in Jeonju are actually found within the Hanok Village itself, so you can expect to spend most of your time in Jeonju in the village. Personally, I spent an entire Saturday (about 7-8 hours) walking to cover every nook and cranny of the village.

At the main entrance of the Hanok Village, you will notice the Jeondong Cathedral as it stands out conspicuously with its European designs alongside traditional hanoks.

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Right at the entrance opposite the cathedral, you will spot the Gyeonggijeon Shrine, where you’ll get small snippets of Korean history, especially that of King Tae-jo (founder of Joseon dynasty). Later, I found out that the small bamboo garden in this attraction was a filming site for Love in the Moonlight. Note that a very small entrance fee is required.

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Food-wise – except for the popular street snack stalls (eg. P&B bakery [selling Jeonju chocolate pie – different from the usual Korean choco pie in that it is coated with a thicker chocolate coating and has a creamier, more distinct flavour of the pie itself. Try it for yourself], octopus skewers, famous dumpling shop) and restaurants which have long queues, I would recommend not eating in the village itself. Especially if you want to have an authentic experience of Jeonju bibimbap. Without that knowledge initially, I went to a restaurant in an alley of the village and had a mediocre and expensive bibimbap. That night, I visited the street of restaurants, bakeries and photo studios right along the village’s entrance and food there was way better.

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I also managed to try moju, a 1% alcoholic beverage made with makgeolli and a variety of Chinese oriental herbs, thus popular for its health benefits. As far as I know, it can only be found in Jeonju. I loved it for its cinnamon-y taste and thick consistency. It was just like the Korean oriental teas which I happen to like a lot too.

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After lunch, I had my first Hanbok experience in Korea. Besides hanboks, there are also many stores renting different kinds of costumes like school uniforms. There were also lots of people who cross-dressed (especially Korean boys in gisaeng hanboks), and I too shall attempt it one day.

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I took a stroll along the Jeonju River, where I unexpectedly found some good photo opportunities with wild silvergrass (which only blooms from October to November).

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The next stop from the river was the Jeonju Hyanggyo, which used to be a Confucian school. In autumn, the entranceway from the outer gate leading in to the halls was a bright yellow exhibition of gingko trees, falling leaves and fallen leaves.

 
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I highly recommend visiting the Omokdae and Imokdae pavilions, despite the short climb up a hill. On the way up or down, the unobstructed bird’s eye view of the hanok rooftops will be a treat for the eye. Go at sunset to catch the view of the hanoks against a backdrop of the setting sun.  I also took a short rest at the pavilion among local and foreign tourists.
 
If you cross a short bridge from the site of the pavilions, it will lead to the Jaman Mural Village, filled with colourful wall paintings of houses and small cafes.

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On my second day, I went to the other two main attractions outside of the Hanok Village are the Pungnammun Gate and Nambu Traditional Market, which merely takes 3 minutes on foot from the village’s main entrance. The market tends to be quiet in the day with most stalls closed, so I would recommend visiting it for the night market which operates every Friday and Saturday night from 6pm to midnight. The market is also popular for its Korean blood sausage (soondae) and beansprouts soup with rice.

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The second floor of Nambu Market is a youth mall featuring independent stalls established by youths who aspire to be entrepreneurs and business operators. I tried the pancakes, French toast and wine at a small café called 리리88, and was surprised by the affordable prices and homely taste of their brunch items.

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Having spent that short weekend in Jeonju, I could see why the number of visitors saw an exponential increase since the 2000s. The slow city comprehensively showcases traditional Korea, with a focus on the history of the Joseon dynasty, as well as various sights and food that can be hard to find elsewhere.

New York City 2018 – 19

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My faint memories from the first NYC trip were finding a way to piece themselves back together as I entered the city last December after 5 whole years. This time, I stayed at Hamilton Heights in Upper Manhattan, a neighbourhood I was not familiar with. Despite initial worries about the long commute downtown every day and the safety of the area, we soon got used to taking the metro and the district turned out to be quite safe after all. We also got a decently large AirBnB for its price compared to the ones in midtown and downtown Manhattan, and which came with amazing views of the sunrise – something which I hardly caught.

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Although I was fighting off the cold which I will always find unbearable and a jetlag which attempted to close my eyes by dusk and force them shut by 10pm, I think I did cover much area in the city. Something I didn’t manage to do the previous time. So I brought together some images and recommendations of some of my favourite stops, in no particular order.

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La Mercerie – 53 Howard Street, New York, NY 10013

This French café cum furniture shop housed in one large space is an eye-stunner. I have always been a minimalist, yet I was amazed at how every corner of the space could be purposefully decorated with elegance and not feel cluttered at the same time. The Homemade Smoked Salmon here could not be compared to the one from Russ & Daughters, but everything else we had was satisfyingly good – Oeuf A La Coque (Buttered Soldiers), Maple Croissant (the French and their pastries!!), and even my Latte. The smaller than expected portions and inattentive wait staff were a pity.

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Happy Bones – 394 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

The space here was smaller than I expected with space just for 3 round marble tables, but the modern industrial vibes were right on point. The cafe also seemed good for doing work. I adored the coffee, and the pastries were alright, just that the banana bread was on the dry side.

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Flatiron Building – 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

This was my second time beneath the Flatiron, which serves as an office building. I find it hard to even appreciate architectural pieces of work, but I love looking at this building.

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Maman – 205 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

When I had a meet up with an Instagram friend, we decided to meet at the latest outpost of famed bakery Maman. The rustic theme of Maman was a charm – the old-looking wooden tables and blue-and-white motifs on their plates, paper cups and coffee machine stood out to me the most. I only tried the quiche here and it was up to standard.

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Reynard – 80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

This modern American-style restaurant is located in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. I had a weird combination of this duck porridge dish (which the waitress recommended) and a mimosa. The duck porridge was very Asian, very comforting, and it reminded me of home immediately. After our meal, we explored the hipster and partially gentrified neighborhood of Williamsburg. I loved the flea markets, book shops and independent clothing stores – all antique and vintage. There are also some notable stores we visited, namely Mast Brothers Chocolates and Le Labo (luxury perfumes, scents, oils). We grabbed some chocolates from Mast Brothers and I was surprised at how organic the chocolates tasted. In a good way of course.

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The Oculus – Church St, New York, NY 10006

Also known as the World Trade Centre Mall, The Oculus oddly felt like a mixture of VivoCity and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – the high ceiling allowing daylight to shine through, luxury boutique stores and lots of tourists. Though we didn’t get anything here, we snapped the same-photo-that-everyone-takes-here and took a look at the 9/11 Memorial right outside.
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Russ & Daughters Café – 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

We had not expected the 1 hour wait on a weekday afternoon, but we waited anyway. We then walked around LES to kill time, stopping by the instagram famous Freeman Alley which goes up to Freeman’s Restaurant, until we got called. It turned out that the wait was worth it. The Classic (smoked salmon along with bagels) was so memorable, I can hardly remember our other order of Sturgeon, Eggs and Onion. I could almost taste the sea in the smoked salmon, that was how fresh it was. My best brunch (turned mid-afternoon lunch) in NYC yet.

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Empire State Building – 20th West 34th St, New York, NY 10001

In consideration of the 2-hour queue ahead of us and my nearly empty stomach, we decided to ball and get the express pass up the Empire State – a decision we did not regret. Going on a cloudy day seemed better for less glare on blue light reflected on the buildings.

Brunch in Boston – Loyal Nine and Tatte Bakery

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I spent a short 2 days and 1 night in Boston while on a trip in NYC. It was my first time riding the Amtrak which ran from Penn Station in Manhattan. The seats were quite comfortable but the ride a tad too shaky for me – or at least when compared to the KTX in Korea. Right after arriving and dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed out to our brunch spot in East Cambridge.

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Loyal Nine exudes of rustic, American vibes the moment you step in. Since I was there on a sunny afternoon, the space was also cast with the midday sunlight and shadows. It’s a space not to be missed.

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From the lunch menu, I ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich (US$12) served with creamy slaw and pickled jalapenos while my friend got the Duck, Mushroom, Farro (a type of whole grain made from a certain species of wheat) (US$11). The seemingly odd combination went well and it tasted really healthy at the same time.

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I would love to have their weekend brunch.

Loyal Nine – 660 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02141, USA.

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The next morning was spent admiring the iconic Beacon Hill neighbourhood. The gloomy weather, though making travelling around harder, made the colours of the brick-red buildings pop. And although I’ve seen the cobblestones of Acorn Street often on photos online, seeing it directly was still fascinating.

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If you’re looking for brunch in Beacon Hill, Tatte Bakery, which opens all day, is a pretty good choice. Being one of the most popular bakeries in Boston, the Beacon Hill outlet I went was always crowded with customers that come and go.

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Their House Latte – Honey Halva & Cardamom Latte (US$4.75) is worth a mention for its natural sweetness from the honey and its complex flavours from cardamom.

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And then the Greek Style Pancakes (US$11) topped with Greek yogurt, sesame, and jam is worth many, many mentions for the right consistency in the pancakes. The Chicken, Orange & Kale Salad (US$14) that I got was also not dry at all.

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Tatte Bakery – 70 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114. Mon to Fri 7am-8pm, Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 8am-7pm. Several outlets.

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Visiting Boston during the wintry days was not exactly the best option but one of the very few options for me. Managed to see a few other places as well – Brattle Book Shop, Boston Public Library, Boston Commons, Harvard Square, Boston Public Market, Boston Public Garden – but the frigid and rainy weather made it hard for photographs. Loved the old American charms of the city though.

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