Listen to AI ‘Blobs’ Sing Korean Folk Songs – Blob Opera by David Li

Blob Opera is a gem I discovered on Google Arts and Culture this morning when I should have been working. It was created by David Li in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture and is an AI Experiment.

Li enlisted the help of real opera singers to teach a machine learning model how to be an opera singer. Li’s algorithm is called a convolutional neural network and was trained using 16 hours of opera singing recorded by 4 opera singers.

You can play around with the blobs and record your own song, or you can go on a tour of the world to hear the sounds of other cultures. By clicking on the globe at the bottom right of the page, you can click on ‘Seoul, South Korea’ or 5 other cities around the globe. Then, you can choose to have the Blob Opera sing three different Korean folk songs! The songs are ‘Arirang’ (‘My Beloved One’), ‘Han River’ and ‘Doraji Taryeong’ (named after the Platycodon flower).

I am a huge fan of anything that combines art and machine learning. I regularly check out Google Arts and Culture and Experiments with Google. Check them out if you have time! Maybe something I make will end up there one day, who knows!

You have to get Lost in Hannam, A must-see Neighbourhood in Seoul and Aussie Brunch at Summer Lane

Have you been wanting to explore new parts of Seoul? No? Oh, that’s cool! Oh, you don’t live in Seoul and this post is irrelevant to you? But you want to know anyway for when you inevitably travel here in a post-pandemic world where life is free and maskless? Okay, cool. Let’s see Hannam!

Hannam is a wealthy suburb in Seoul located next to Itaewon, conveniently situated in front of the Han River. It is a great place for shopping, cafe hunting, photo taking and it’s great for spying on some of the most expensive houses in Seoul. It also happens to be where our beloved BTS members live. I highly doubt they leave their house and I also highly doubt they spend a lot of time in their homes. So where do they go? Who knows. But I can guarantee if I ever saw a BTS member on the loose I wouldn’t recognise them without makeup and a Louis Vuitton ensemble.

My cafe recommendation for this area is Summer Lane Brunch. It is an Australian style brunch spot located in Hannam (or Itaewon, I’m not sure how Seoul geography works). If you are looking for some Aussie brunch and coffee, this HAS to be the next cafe you go to in Seoul. Here are the deets:

Summer Lane Brunch

49, Itaewon-ro 55ga-gil, Yongsan-gu Seoul, Korea

Opens 7:30 am to 18:00 pm every day

How to Get Lost in Hannam:

After you fill up on Aussie sausage rolls and Duke’s coffee, head in the direction of the ‘Nine One Hannam’ apartment complex. On your way down the stairs, you will find cafes, clothing stores, pubs, book stores and everything else you need to live a cultured and colourful Insta-worthy life.

Writing my first magazine article – Visiting 5 cafes in Seoul, South Korea

I am so excited to finally be putting this all out into the world. About 2 months ago, I was asked by Coffee t&i Magazine if I could write about some speciality coffee cafes here in Seoul, South Korea. I of course jumped at the opportunity and got to work straight away… without realising just how difficult it would be to visit 5 cafes, take photographs, film clips for my YouTube channel, write the article and then gather all of the information for each cafe squeezed in over one weekend whilst working full time… But I have lived to tell the tale and I am so excited to be sharing it all with you today. If there was one thing I learned through all of this, it’s that bloggers, vloggers, writers and travel influencers definitely don’t have an easy job, they’re just great at making their craft look so simple.

Although this wasn’t a paid opportunity, writing and taking photos is something that I have always enjoyed for myself. My philosophy as a foreigner living in South Korea is that I should take any opportunities that come my way because it can only help me learn and grow. I have been accumulating skills in so many different areas because I have allowed myself to take on so many exciting projects this year and I know that someday my hard work will reward me… somehow… who knows!

The issue of the magazine was launched a few weeks ago but sadly, the online version is not currently available. I will insert all of the information about the cafes that I went to here as well as some images that I took on the day and images from the magazine! I hope that in the future I can write some more articles… or not. I can always just stick to my day job which is also pretty fun.

Cafe #1 Duke’s Coffee Showroom 

10 Eoulmadang-ro 2-gil, Dangin-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 – 18:00 / Weekend 11:00 – 19:00

Cafe #2 Perception Coffee

16 Eoulmadang-ro 1-gil, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul 

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: 9:00 – 24:00 (Closed Tuesdays)

Cafe #3 Motif Coffee

46 Poeun-ro, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Subway Station: Hapjeong (Line 2)

Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (Closed Mondays)

Cafe #4 Scene Coffee

20 Yeonmujang 5(o)-gil, Seongsu 2(i)-ga 3(sam)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul 

Subway Station: Seongsu (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Thursday and Sunday 8:00 – 23:00

Friday – Saturday 10:00 – 23:00

Cafe #5 Raw Coffee Stand

28-2 Wangsimniro 4(sa)-gil, Seongsu 1(il)-ga 2(i)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul 

Subway Station: Ttukseom (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 – 18:00

Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 (Sunday closed)

The Magazine Issue!

Not enough content for your eyeballs? Well, it’s a good thing I filmed the whole experience and put it on the internet! You can watch my vlog down below. For all media inquiries, please visit the work with me page here on my blog or get in touch via Instagram.

Korean Skincare Review: VT Cosmetics Super Hyalon Range

Hello Jo So Ko Reader, today I am happy to be sharing my first ever Korean skincare review! I was very kindly sent some products from the Super Hyalon range by VT Cosmetics and I have been asked to review them. Please enjoy my photos and words and, if you have some time, enjoy my latest YouTube video. I also filmed a daily makeup routine. I was completely honest about my first impressions and I hope you enjoy! Stay safe, stay inside and stay hydrated.

The Products I Tried

Step 1: Super Hyalon Booster – Helps with skin texture

Step 2: Super Hyalon Eye Mask – Adhesive sheet that gives hydration and moisture around the eyes

Step 3: Super Hyalon Emulsion – Gives the skin moisture moisture moisture

Step 4: Super Hyalon Ampoule – Highly concentrated serum that hydrates and is good for dry skin

Step 4: Super Hyalon Cream – Gel formula with blue capsules packed full of moisture

To hear my full review of the products, watch my latest YouTube video at the end of this blog post. I am still using the Booster, Cream and Eye Masks on a daily basis and absolutely love these products. I loved all of the products but my sensitive skin is not a huge fan of long skincare routines and changes to my daily routine!

What is G:H8?

For the purpose of this collaboration, I wanted to make sure that I knew a bit more about the products I was putting on my face. All of the products I tried had the ingredient G:H8 which sounded a little bit like a chemistry experiment. According to the VT Cosmetics website, the ‘G’ stands for ‘Polyglutamic Acid’ which is a ‘water soluble peptide derived from soybeans’ that can ‘retain five times the amount of moisture than hyaluronic acid’ (Reference).

The ‘H8’ stands for 8 different types of Hyaluronic Acid (I wasn’t aware there was more than one type). Hyaluronic acid supports healthy and supple skin by holding in moisture. This ingredient is found in a lot of skincare products on the market as it is good for a wide range of skin types and problems. For more information, I used this reference to learn more.

Everyday Makeup

At the end of the video, I did a short daily makeup look. Here are the products I use on a daily basis! (From Left to Right)

Nars Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette Mini, Hourglass Ambient Light Blush Luminous Flush, Morphe M139 Brush, Eco Tools Powder Brush, Ink Velvet 15 Lip Tint, Missha Over Lengthening Mascara, Klairs Illuminating Supple Blemish Cream SPF 40 PA ++

48 hours in Jeju Island

A few weeks ago, we took a short trip to Jeju Island, located at the south of the Korean Peninsula. While it was controversial to travel during this current pandemic, it was equally crucial to get a change of scenery from the routine of our 9-5’s. We were very safe while we travelled, always wore masks and washed our hands everywhere we went. The airport was well equipped with temperature monitoring and mask safety.
This trip gave us a quick glimpse at what life could be like in the near future. A future where people are excited to explore more of the beautiful countries they inhabit rather than feeling the need to jet off far away each chance they get. Keep scrolling to the end to watch a video of our travels! I hoe you are staying safe and well. Feel free to follow my Instagram @hellojoquinn to keep up with all things life in South Korea.
Osulloc Tea Museum
Ö puff x piz plz Cafe
For more posts about our Jeju trip, check out these blog posts: Osulloc Tea Museum, Jeju Island If your cafe isn’t on Naver, is it really a cafe? An important essay

If your cafe isn’t on Naver, is it really a cafe? An important essay

Hello world, welcome to this important essay titled ‘Never not gonna Naver’. I actually just made that up and it kind of almost doesn’t make any sense. I’m currently getting my sweat on at the gym and thought ‘hmmm…perhaps I should write an important blog post about the positive correlation between a Korean cafe’s Naver presence and its interior design/aesthetic value’. The person who sweat all over this germ-infested bike before me really gave me that extra push of inspiration that I needed tonight.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s 8am, you’ve just awoken from a night of soju drinking in a new place and you realise that you’ve overpayed on your hotel based on the kink the $10 sandbox pilow has left in your neck. You’re disoriented, dehydrated and in desperate need of caffeine. Alas, the last thing you need is one of Korea’s chain coffee stores to so much as toy with the idea of trying cure your current discombobulated state. No no no. You need a real cafe. With real chairs. With a unique cafe concept. That’s what you need.

This is where the Naver part comes in (thank you for bearing with me on this strange journey, my bike has just ticked over the 15 minute mark and I have useless essay ideas aplenty right now). Naver, for you monolingual troglodytes out there, is Koreans answer to Google. Why did Korea need an answer to a question nobody else dare ask? Homogeneity. That’s why. (Naver have a search engine, a maps service, a WebToon website, they own ‘Line’ which is a messaging platform more commonly used in Japan as well as ‘Snow’ which is a popular camera app here in Korea (along with many other services)).

Anyway… so, my husband and I both embarked on the 30-second long task to try and find a cafe to schlep ourselves to. We searched ‘cafe’ in Korean and both decided that the best place for us to go was one with a beautiful range of pastries and bread. Not 20 minutes later were we ready and out the door, without a shadow of doubt blocking our decision’s limelight. Despite having to drive 20 minutes to the cafe, our 30 second decision did not alter along the way. 

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Here is the first page of a Naver search for ‘Jeju cafe’. I will note that this search is based on your location, so this is a search I did today in Seoul. Wherever you are, if you type ‘카페’ into Naver, it will show the closest cafes to you.

Note the hierarchy of information: Naver puts a big emphasis on the image size and quality. Giving each search result a lettered label makes it much easier to see where the cafe is and remember which search result you liked the most. Next to the letter for each cafe is the name of the cafe, followed by a short description such as ‘A beautiful dessert cafe with a view of the sea in Jeju’ and then the number of reviews customers have left on their Naver Blog.

The information Google favours is a star rating out of 5 and a price range. The photos are slightly smaller with only 1.5 images showing up in the search result. This Naver comparison with a Google search result really shows just how much Koreans value beautiful images and customer reviews.

How beautiful your cafe is and the presentation of your food and coffee is the difference between someone making a 30 second decision to visit your cafe and somebody scrolling right past, without considering your cafe as a worthy contender for their business.

Well, that was an overly complicated way of explaining something quite simple. All you need to do to figure this trend out is to search the hashtag ‘카페스크그렘’ (cafestagram) on Instagram and see for your own eyeballs just how serious this cafe interior trend is among Koreans!

Here are some images of the aforementioned cafe and, really, the protagonist of this essay. It is located in Jeju Island and I have, contrary to the objective of this entire post, not linked it’s Naver details. Here is the Instagram page.

Happy cafe hopping, friends! Does anyone else sweat between their forearms and biceps when writing compelling phone essays while exercising? Food for thought xx

 

Öpuff x Pizplz, 오퍼프 x 피플 

Jeju Island, South Korea

 

Osulloc Tea Museum, Jeju Island

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Hello internet, it’s Jo So Ko here, your friendly neighbourhood Korea travel blogger, ready to give you all of the scoops on travel in Korea. Not really. I actually always leave it up to my husband to organise things when we travel. I’m just happy to walk around a new place, take photos and eat yummy food.

We recently travelled over an actual sea to go to Jeju Island! It was crazy to fly over an ocean, during these strange and uncertain times. In this post, I wanted to highlight one of the spots we went to on our trip which was the Osulloc Tea Museum!

Osulloc is a big tea company in South Korea owned by the Amore Pacific group, who have a  monopoly on the health and beauty industry in Korea. You might have heard of some of their previous Kbeauty films such as Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige and Primera.

The tea museum in Jeju consists of a large building with some tea history and a tea store, as well as the famous Osulloc Cafe. There are two cafes outside, one of which houses an Innisfree store. There are a lot of other things that I could tell you about if I was a better travel blog. Outside is the main star of the show: the beautiful green tea fields. You can frolic about and pretend to be a green tea farmer, but in reality, there are so many bugs that it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Just look at the pictures, I’m no good with words these days.

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Directions

The museum is open from 9am – 7pm every day and has no entry fee

 

How to wear spring on your face

Hello, let me tell you a story about how I ordered a pizza, cut out the pizza box and ended up with a handmade face mask. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy wherever you are in this crazy wide world. Let’s go!

Step 1. First, I traced a folded paper mask onto a pizza box to make a template for cutting the fabric. I used a face mask I already had for sizing and roughly copied a shape from an internet pattern. DON’T FORGET TO ADD A SEAM ALLOWANCE LIKE I DID. Add 1cm around the template to allow for stitching. How could I have forgotten this step!

Step 2. Trace the pizza box template four times onto some embroidery fabric.

Step 3. Cut out the fabric and sew together down the longest edge. Repeat this twice, one for the outer layer and one for the lining. TIP: DON’T CUT OUT SHAPES BEFORE EMBROIDERING LIKE I DID, EMBROIDER WITHIN THE LINES USING A HOOP AND THEN CUT. I WAS TOO EXCITED!

Step 4. Stitch together separately

Step 5. Choose which piece you will embroider on. I marked out my pattern onto the front piece with a dissolvable marker. Make sure the stitches are on the opposite side of where you are embroidering.

Step 6. Start embroidering ~

Step 7. Once you are happy with your embroidery, sew the lining to the front piece, making sure that all of the stitching is hidden. Pin your elastic or ribbon between the seams, or stitch them to the lining after you finishing sewing.

Step 8. Make a mess of your bed and find needles among your sheets for weeks later.

Viola! A pizza box spring face mask!

The secret is out, folks. After 5 years of design school, I still make things without planning them properly and have to deal with the consequences ~ it’s just that when I have an idea, I get so excited and want to make it right away! Happy stitching and finger poking! Show me your projects by leaving a link or sending an email! Do people still email strangers? Have a good day and don’t forget to take your vitamins!

Sushi and Cherry Blossoms

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Today was a day of sushi and cherry blossoms. The flowers are a’blooming and the birds are a’chirping because spring is a’coming people. The cherry blossoms are nature’s way of saying, ‘hey guys, everything will be okay’.

Cherry blossoms are like the training wheels of nature, they make us feel safe and sound before we summon the confidence to do life with only 2 wheels. After they’re gone, we forget they were even there! Before you know, we’ve smoothly made the winter to summer, heatech to humidity transition.

WHAT AM I SAYING? It was my first back working every day this week and my brain is a little soggy. All of this quarantine has made me lose the humorous edge that helped crown Jo So Ko as the internet’s best travel blog 12 years running.

Time to get some rest, but first, here is a video I made about my work life in Seoul! Check it out if you have nothing better to do 🙂

Exploring Cafes in Seongsu, Seoul

Amore, Seongsu

This is an amazing concept store in Seongsu that houses all of Amore Pacific beauty brands and a rooftop cafe. There are lots of skincare and makeup samples to try, but I was more excited by the vintage graphic design and the actual design of the building.

I am still a bit confused about the whole concept but they have a lot of things to offer. I would just love to sit down with the design team for a second to figure out their intentions and perhaps make it a bit more English friendly ~~ but that’s the designer in me. We then went to the cafe on the rooftop, which only really sells green tea flavoured things… so if that’s not yo speed, you’re going have a tricky time up there! However, I think the drinks looked better than they tasted 🙁 I would recommend you hold off from going to the cafe and just go to a better one nearby like Cafe Onion (keep scrolling for more!)

Visit the website for more info

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How cute is their branding (from their site)

Cafe Onion, Seongsu

Just down the street from Amore Seongsu (or up the street, depending on which way you walk. Sorry, I’m not a map) is Cafe Onion. It is quite a famous spot here in Seoul and they have multiple cafes around the city. I have been wanting to try their bread for a long time! The coffee and bread is not that different from your local Korean bakery but it has a really nice vibe in the cafe!

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Wifi password on the wet tissue = genius

20200318_182148If you’re curious to see more from these places, be sure to watch the weekly vlog I made last week! Have a great week and stay safe xxx