Is it the water? Is it the clean(er?) air? Is it the… people? I am not sure what it is, but each time we go to Yeosu to visit my husband’s family, we eat the best food in the world. I am always too full to fully enjoy it. It just tastes so good? So, if you are in Korea and you don’t know what to do on your summer break this year, go down to Yeosu. I would recommend staying at the Amort Hotel on the beach. Enjoy it and thank me later.
The arrival of winter weather in Seoul means dusty air and chilling winds. A few weeks ago, I braved both the air and the wind to visit the Seoul Animation Center. Despite the smog-covered city, I managed to take some photos along the way. When pollution levels are high in Seoul, not only can you see it in the sky, but you can also feel it in your chest, your throat and in your head. Everything feels a bit sluggish and… bleh. The best way to take care of your health on polluted days is to stay indoors, try not to exercise heavily outside, invest in an air purifier for your home, wear a KF94 face mask and drink plenty of water. I use the app ‘Mise mise’ to keep up with the air quality levels in Korea.
I took some images, but I also managed to film some clips and put them into a YouTube video. I used to film these kinds of videos a lot when I first got my DSLR and was living in Melbourne. The footage is sitting somewhere among all of my hard-drives and memory cards. I absolutely loved filming these clips in the Myeongdong area of Seoul, and hope to make more videos like this in the future. I hope you enjoy!
Namsan Tower hiding away in a smoggy sky
Quieter streets in Myeongdong
Taking the bus over the han river
There are fourteen listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites here in South Korea, and one of them is only a 15-minute drive from my home. Hwaseong Fortress is located in the Gyeonggi Province city of Suwon. Suwon is also home to some of Korea’s biggest tech company HQs like Samsung and LG.
The fortress was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo for defensive and political purposes. It was also built to house the tomb of the King’s father. The Suwoncheon stream runs through the centre of the fortress, which you can see in images below. UNESCO’s website state the following about the incredible features of the fortress:
‘The walls incorporate a number of defensive features, most of which are intact. These include floodgates, observation towers, command posts, multiple arrow launcher towers, firearm bastions, angle towers, secret gates, beacon towers, bastions and bunkers’.
If you’re looking for a new place to explore, not too far from Seoul, I would highly recommend visiting the Hwaseong Fortress. The site boasts gorgeous views of Suwon and is a great way to get in a mini-hike on the weekend. People were starting to set up picnics along the stream now that the weather is warming up here. There are also lots of beautiful modern cafes juxtaposed against traditional Korean architecture and the surrounding fortress. Here is the cafe we visited. Scroll to the end of this post to find out how to get there.
How to Get There
Train and Bus
Take the Line 1 train to Suwon Station and catch the 66 Bus to the fortress
If you ever travel to South Korea, or you’re already here, you will most likely spend a lot of your time in cafes, ordering coffee and then drinking said coffee. Coffee is a big part of Korea’s culture, and is viewed as more of a social drink rather than a ‘if I don’t have a coffee before this meeting, my brain might explode’ kind of drink/fuel.
So, here is a little cheat sheet if you are coming to Korea and want to perfect your coffee ordering skills. For help with reading and listening, copy and paste any new words into Papago to listen. Keep scrolling for an English translation.
S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer ( You!)
S: 안녕하세요. 주문하시겠어요? Or 뭐 드릴까요?
C: 따뜻한 카페라떼 한 잔 주세요.
S: 사이즈는 어떻게 해 드릴까요?
C: 톨 사이즈로 해 주세요.
S: 드시고 가세요?
C: 네, 맞아요.
S: 따뜻한 카페라떼 톨 사이즈 한 잔 맞으세요?
S: 네, 4,500 원 입니다.
—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-
S: 영수증 드릴까요?
C: 괜찮아요. 버려주세요.
S: 옆에서 잠시만 기다려주세요.
C: 네, 감사합니다.
—–coffee machine sound—-
Barista: 36번 고객님, 따뜻한 카페라떼 나왔습니다.
B: 맛있게 드세요.
—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-
S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer
S: Hello. Are you ready to order? Or What can I get you?
C: One cup of hot cafe latte, please.
S: What size would you like?
C: Tall size, please.
S: Is that for here?
C: Yes, that’s right.
S: So, that’s one tall hot cafe latte?
S: Okay, that’s 4,500 won, please.
—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-
S: Do you want a receipt?
C: It’s okay. Please throw it away.
S: Please wait over there for a moment.
C: Yes, thank you.
—–coffee machine sound—-
Barista: Customer 36, your cafe latte is ready.
C: Thank you.
—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-
Brrrr… it’s chilly in this city. I’m pretty sure I just saw snow in my bathroom (not really). When I first came to Korea in 2017, I had no idea how cold things would get come December. This lead to me jumping on my bicycle, racing to the closest Uniqlo from my dormitory, and buying anything that looked like it would keep me warm. Two years later, and I am still wearing the items I bought that day.
I want to help you avoid this shock if you’re planning on coming to Seoul in the cold months of late November, December, and January. This could also be helpful if you’re planning to come to Korea to be an English teacher. Planning your wardrobe for four seasons is hard when you have airline luggage restrictions to consider.
On Looking Good in Winter
Let’s get one thing out of the way, looking cute and stylish is HARD in winter. Once you’ve layered your heat tech and jumpers, you look more like a marshmallow than a fashion icon. Accept it. Be warm. Keep your coat on even though you want to show off your outfit. And don’t let instagram likes dictate the way you dress.
Winter Formula for Getting Dressed:
(Thermal Leggings + Thermal Top + Socks) + Bottom Layer + Jumper + Coat + More Socks + Gloves + Beanie + Scarf – Inappropriate Summer Fabrics + Shoes = You MIGHT be warm today
Before we get into some the outfits I wore in December, let’s go through my Korean winter essentials. Because I am a foreigner living in Korea, I don’t have a huge wardrobe full of cute outfits. It’s hard to transport an entire wardrobe across the Pacific Ocean. These are the items I can’t live without, so you may be seeing these items recurring throughout the outfits!
1. Cashmere Jumper
2. Warm Scarf
3. Wool Coat / Long Padding Jacket
4. Knee High Boots / Leather Boots
5. Waterproof Sneakers
6. Heat Tech Leggings and Turtle Necks
7. WARM Gloves
8. Wool Beanie / Beret / Ear Muffs
Pro Tip: if you’re planning to move to Korea or any colder climate, the best thing to do is look out for cashmere sales! I picked up my jumper at a huge sale at Vin Prime, a second hand clothing store here in Korea. The quality of your clothes really makes a difference when staying warm, and it doesn’t have to make you broke! My jumper was only $20 and it’s 100% Cashmere.
Outfit #1: Christmas Tree Chic
This first outfit was taken at the beginning of December, hence the bare ankles. I can get away without an extra layer under these pants because they are so WARM, which is why I spent money that was out of my budget to buy them… I paired the pants with some black boots, a cashmere jumper over a t-shirt and a coat. On warmer winter days, you can get away with not wearing any thermal or heat tech layers!
The best investment I made this winter was this pair of green wool structured trousers from COS. They fit me like a glove and are so warm and cosy. I wanted something that looked professional but at the same time would keep me warm. I made this investment back when I thought getting a non-teaching job in Korea was a piece of cake… Also, they look like grass but for your pant legs!
Outfit #2: Incognito Shopping Trip
I love these grey lambs wool leggings that I bought from the Australian brand Country Road FOUR years ago! They are still keeping me warm. The tote is from a Museum in Singapore and the beanie is from a flea market in Japan. I kind of look like I’m on my way to rob a bank, and I’m okay with that.
This is often how I dress when walking to the supermarket – how exciting. These are my Adidas sneakers that I bought in summer and they are the coolest sneakers I’ve ever owned.
Outift #3: Horse Rider Takes on Inner City Shopping Centre
This horse riding look is my favourite to wear because of these BOOTS. I got these brown leather boots in a Zara sale last year and they make me feel like a powerful yet bohemian lady. These are the shoes that make me want to get dressed on cold mornings. I love wearing them with tight jeans so I can show off the whole boot. When I cover them in pant or skirt fabric, the boots don’t get to shine! Again, here is my cashmere jumper that I wear basically everyday, cashmere scarf and my padding jacket. I know Koreans aren’t overly fond of Uniqlo, but I couldn’t survive winter here without their clothes.
I planned on taking more awkward selfies but then we moved house and life did that thing that it does where you suddenly don’t have time to do things. However, most of my outfits look like the ones you saw above in various combinations. I unintentionally have a capsule wardrobe situation due to aforementioned lack of luggage allowance and general lack of money to buy clothes!
Bonus Outfits from December!
Let’s start with this navy moment I had when I went ice skating.
Here is a Christmas look – I love that I can wear my running shoes with jeans and a coat without looking like a business woman on a long commute? When I know I’m going to be walking around a lot, I have to whisper ‘not today’ to my beloved brown boots and opt for these.
Hugging my bag in the middle of the street.
Road trip outfit in a highway rest stop bathroom
With my friend at Ader Error in Hongdae.
Who is that crazy lady taking self timer pics of her toilet paper outfit??? With her eyes closed?
I’m really sad looking at this photo because I have since lost this scarf. I was doing a very quick job situation in Gangnam, and I dropped it somewhere. It was my favourite Uniqlo cashmere scarf and I can’t seem to find a replacement as soft (and affordable) as this one. Edit: I found the exact same scarf in pink, but I still mourn the loss of this one 🙁
I hope you enjoyed my foray into fashion blogging. The moral of the story is choose warmth over style and comfort over ‘but I want to look cute today’. Let me know what your winter staples are and where you like to shop. Have a great day!
Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…
Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.
There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?
In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!
How to Ice Skate in Seoul:
If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)
I had another social day today, this time we were in Gangnam. We started our adventure in a Vietnamese restaurant called ‘Tam Tam’, which had queues of people waiting to be seated. We enjoyed our soupy pho noodles up at a really high table – the waiter literally had to push our chairs in for us because the seats were so high! The food was delish, but we had to be very careful after eating not to roll our ankles whilst trying to come back down to earth. You can see in this pic, the chairs are at the waiter’s hipbone!
Our teacher fashioned some makeshift chopstick holders out of napkins! So gorgeous!
This is a hill that my friend kindly escorted me down. It was so steep and I was in heeled boots, not a great combo!!
After lunch, we moved onto a cafe nearby! Two of my friends had flavourless tea and had to send them back. I don’t remember the name of the cafe so I can’t tell you. Despite their drinks being a disappointment, we sat here for hours and had a good quality chat. The cafes in Gangnam are so cosy in the wintertime. You can sit there for hours without being guilted into leaving or buying another drink.
If you’re wanting to explore the cafes and restaurants in Gangnam, go to Gangnam station on line 2, take exit 11, kep walking straight and head right up the small alleyways! There are an endless range of food and shopping options!
Today, I went to the incredible second-hand bookstore ‘서울책보고’ along with my friends from Korean class! They have a variety of both Korean and English books. If you are living in Seoul and struggling to buy books to read in English, this might be a great option for you. Bonus points: it has beautiful arched shelves that lead you through a tunnel along the entire store!
As an expat in Korea, it’s hard to get my hands on English novels, so I picked up 3 to keep me going next year on public transport. I’m not sure that it is wise to buy more books a week before moving house, but I am still in the store so I may not end up buying them all (edit: I didn’t). Keep scrolling through the images to see the directions on how to get there!
How to Get There
1, Ogeum-ro, 14, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Bus Jamsil Naru Station (about 608m walk after getting off)-342, 3318, 3412, 4318, 16
Subway Line2 -Jamsil Naru Station Exit 1
(Information from their website http://www.seoulbookbogo.kr/front/ )
I quickly snapped these images to send to my mum yesterday. We both have a vested interest in any form of ephemeral public art. If I’m ever wondering through Coex, I keep her updated on the changing sculptures at the centre of the amazing library.
I wanted to keep up my blogging streak despite the fact that I’m not in love with these images. This morning we went apartment hunting and signed a new lease so I haven’t had a lot of time. I’m very excited to move to a different area that is a little bit outside of Seoul. As much as I love Seoul, I did start to wish we were more connected to nature. Our new neighbourhood will be perfect! I even saw a great running path along the stream near our new house. Oooh la la.
Back to the photos… be sure to check out the christmas display at the Coex Starfield Library. I might try and go back there at a time when there are less people around! I hope you’re enjoying your christmas festivities and preparations.
Good morning, Korean Picnic fan(s)! For today’s post, I thought I would post pictures from our family trip to Busan this past August. Looking at these photos is bringing me a bit of warmth on this cold winter’s day!
This was a special trip for us despite it being a quick weekend getaway (we declared that we were getting married to my now in-laws). The weather was incredible, the food was fresh and I loved driving around Busan. Well, I loved being a passenger, I don’t think I would have liked being the one behind the wheel in Busan. The roads there are more like slippery waterslides without rules.
I was a happy passenger looking at the amazing bridges from the back seat!
I fell in love with this house that was next to our accommodation. Although I think it’s just because I love emerald green!
This was a great cafe and I highly recommend it if you’re a chill traveller like us and just want to sit down for a few hours by the ocean. The coffee was delish and we were able to take our orders into our own little hut and isolate ourselves from the other chill travellers. There was also a hammock which smelled rather sweaty but I wasn’t about to say no to a hammock party in the sun. Oh, and isn’t my husband so cute? He was my boyfriend when we took these pictures!
After lazing in the sun, we ended up at a beach (of course I don’t remember the name). It was so weird being restricted to such a small swimming section. As an Australian, it was kind of a novelty.
Let’s look at some foooood!
This was my second visit to Busan and it was great to see even more of such a beautiful city. I hope next time we can spend more than a weekend there. If you have written a post about Busan, let me know so I can bookmark ideas for our next trip!
This is my eighth day of posting a daily blog and I am loving it. I feel like I finally have the creative juice to write the things I wanted to when I was working full time!
Have a great day and come back tomorrow for another post!