Blame it on K-drama and a thwarted meeting last June, we found ourselves walking the streets of Mapo-Gu, backpacks in tow, looking for our guesthouse on a cold and rainy day in November. We don’t want to waste that visa and ticket, yes?
We got off the subway, followed the instructions provided by the guesthouse complete with photos. Easy to find, on a quiet street not far from the main road sits a charming brick building housing a photography studio and an office on the ground floor.
Lee Kang Ga will be our home for a few days while we explore Seoul (some of it, that is). The cozy guesthouse is on the top floor with residential units in between.
I chose to stay in the Hongdae district for its urban street arts and indie music culture. Brimming with mostly young people wandering about, the vibrant streets (especially at night) are alive with music and a lot of cheering. You’ll see dance performances, musicians singing or playing their instruments in all sorts of genre.
Filled with independent stores and boutiques, it is also a fantastic place to shop if edgy fashion is your thing. It is clearly a place for the young and the young at heart.
As it is a university belt, restaurants and coffee shops abound. Although a phenomenon in all of Korea, the area boasts of exciting themed cafes.
Every night was a different discovery of the local taste. One night we devoured on (fried) chicken and beer.
If you don’t know this combination, then you are not watching enough K-dramas.
“Have you tried makgeolli?” Andy, from our guesthouse and (must add) the kindest staff I’ve encountered so far, asked. Apparently also superb with chicken, he ran down to the nearest convenience store, bought us a few bottles of Korean rice wine. He ordered a box of fried chicken to go with it.
Pronounced Mak-a-lee, this milky alcoholic beverage is fizzy and refreshing, slightly sweet and tangy and easy to drink.
Every night, we gather at the rooftop kitchen and dining area to exchange stories and share a few bottles of beer, soju, makgeolli or wine with other guests and staff.
It was a lovely vibe of different cultures and age groups. And till today, I still fond memories of those nights.
In the heart of Hongdae, Andy pointed us to one of his favorite “grilled beef” restaurants. It didn’t have an English sign so he sent us a photo of the sign in Korean and instructions on how to find it.
Found on the 3rd floor atop a 7Eleven store, it was packed with students and young professionals. And on a corner table, we indulged in excellent Korean beef. What made it really special outside of its quality and reasonable price is the array of flavoured salt that one dredges on the meat.
Equally as important to Koreans are pork bellies. Samgyupsal or pork belly wraps could possibly outshine any beef dish in Korea. Koreans are in love with pork bellies and so are we. On our way to the Nanta Theater in Hongdae, we spotted “The Ginger Pork” and instantly knew where dinner will be after the show.
Thick fatty slices of pork bellies grilled on a grill plate, eaten together with garlic, green onion salad and some ssamjang wrapped in fresh lettuce leaf. It was a glorious way to cap a fantastically energetic show.
And speaking of Nanta, do find time to watch this impressive non-verbal comedy show that is entirely about cooking/food. It’s a lot of fun. In Hongdae, the theatre is housed in the beautiful Yellow Stone Building.
There are more to explore in the Hongdae district and 4 nights is simply not enough. In fact, we only scratched the surface and definitely calls for another visit. More of Seoul in my next posts. Stay tuned.