After drowning our sadness in a magical meal that came straight from a Kdrama, or even better, a fanfic, we’re all putting our big girl panties on and moving on. Or, some of us are putting panties on, some of us are going a different route… taking them off in order to get their lady bits nice and steamed.
Apparently, its a thing.
It’s our first Alix-less morning, which wasn’t in our plan. What actually was in our itinerary? Today we were to separate again, SaraG and Leila having decided to go all out in a Korean spa, where they’d get full facials, massages, and, as mentioned, lady bits steaming. They were very nice in inviting me (a couple of times) to come along with them, but here’s another Stephanie Fun Fact: STEPHANIE DOESN’T DO PUBLIC NUDITY. Stephanie barely does private nudity. Sure, I could have gone to the non-naked parts of the spa, but eh, then I’m just paying to lay around on a heated floor in someone else’s clothes. There were several conversations which could be summed up like this:
SaraG: Do you want to go to the spa with Leila and me?
Stephanie: Nah, I’m good.
SaraG: Are you sure you don’t want to go to the spa? No one is going to look at you. No one cares.
Stephanie: STOP TRYING TO SEE ME NAKERS, SARAG.
So within the group, we considered it Leila and SaraG’s solo date — and so no one would be jelly — we’d all get some time on the SaraG datebooks. She and Leila getting naked in public, having halmonies in underpants scrubbing at least three layers of skin off. Then while Leila and I were off having our own time at the palaces (Leila and I both being history suckers and SaraG and Alix having already been to the palaces before), SaraG and Alix would go and have their special alone time. When was my solo SaraG time you ask? Well, Alix and Leila had talked about doing a walking desert tour of Seoul, so SaraG and I were going to go visit a cool abandoned amusement park I found.
With this new dynamic, SaraG and Leila offered again to expand to an OT3, but again, the naked thing. Plus? I had plans! I’ve mentioned throughout the series here, that a behind the scenes helper was our friend, Lisa, who lives in Korea full time. I’d met Lisa through my time with KCon, being on a few different panels with her through the years and always found her delightful. DEE-Lightful. So, when I knew I was going to Korea, I connected back up with her to see if she could squeeze me in for a visit.
Spoiler alert: She could!
As we tried to figure out what we wanted to do for our time together, she suggested I come up where she lives outside of Seoul, but I was a little nervous being so far away from Leila and SaraG. Alix had tasked me with taking care of our directionally challenged pair, and I took that job very seriously. So Lisa agreed to come down, excited when I told her we were staying in Hongdae as she remembered a BBQ place she loved there when she lived in town. Friends and grilled meat? Sure, I’m in!
I dropped the ladies off at the subway station and attempted to get my self some more hand warmers, as mentioned before, Korean hand warmers are the BOMB. I stopped into a few different convenience stores trying to find them before just sucking it up and asking a clerk. It was actually funny, as this was one of the few times I had to whip out the translator app. Apparently, me rubbing my hands together and shivering, saying “Handwarmers?” didn’t translate as well I’d hoped it would.
My original plan had been to go to a coffee shop while I was waiting for her, as very high on my list of things to do was to sit at a coffee shop and either do site work or to write fanfic. I know that sounds boring or basic, but all of this started with Kdrama — with this site (RIP Crazy for Kdrama) — all of the people I’ve met or everything I’ve accomplished in the last years are because of this. It seemed like a proper tribute to sit in a Korean coffee shop working on it all.
It was a lofty goal. Instead what I did? I wandered daytime Hongdae, which is very different from night time Hongdae. I popped in and out of stores just walking, Korean music playing in my ears. I tried very, very hard not to get all swoony at the cuties working the hip shops, almost as hard as I tried to look like I totally belonged in these hip shops as another thing on my to-do list in Korea was to go shopping and find some fun Kpop-esqe sweaters. You know the ones, with the angles and the zippers and structure. In one shop I found this:
And I really wanted it. But I’m very cheap and also wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. I took a picture of the shop and the jacket and said I’d think about it and if, by the end of the trip, I still wanted it, I’d go back for it. (This is an excellent rule of thumb if you’re going to be in a place for a while. Shopping fervor is a very real thing. You don’t want to come out of it going “What did I just do???”) I passed a sweet potato shop that I made a note to go back to. I hadn’t yet seen any street vendors who sold roasted sweet potatoes and figured this might be the closest I get. Unfortunately, that I did not take a picture of, so I spent the remainder of my time in Hongdae searching for the place.
Always. Take. Pictures.
There was this super hip shop, which made me think, yeah, not for me, but I passed the sale rack outside and found a chunky, thick sweater on sale for 19000 won. You better believe I snapped that shit up. The rest of the pictures from Korea will look like I’ve gained 10 pounds. Not true. In fact, the rest of the pictures from Korea will feature me squeezing the puffy sweater underneath my fitted coat. I may look like I’m about to burst from my jacket, but I didn’t care, I was finally warm!
I also paid 5000 won for this knit hat! There completes my uniform for the rest of the trip.
The morning slipped away from me, and before I realized it, it was time for me to go back to the subway station to gather Ms. Lisa! Thanks to the handy numbered exits, I was able to wait for her at the exact gate she was going to emerge.
Once we met, she leads me down the twist and winding streets of Hongdae, trying to find this BBQ place she’d been to before. We stopped for coffee, where she handily ordered everything for me in Korean. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but this was the cheapest Americano I’d had in my entire Korean stay.
Also not certain why I didn’t take pictures of it, but the BBQ was just as delicious as she said it was. (Probably trying not to appear as touristy as I was. Don’t you have those days on vacation where you just want to pretend like you blend in?Like you belong there? Sure I’m not Korean, but I could still be that cool person who lives abroad.) On the table was this herbed salt mixture that was AMAZING. When we found out they sold them by the bottle? No surprise, we both bought a set. I planned on sharing it with the Colorado ladies who weren’t with me during one of our at-home – Friday Night Get Shitfaced On Meat Nights, but…. it’s months out, and I still haven’t shared. I’d say I’m a jerk, but I haven’t actually used it myself either. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And then I’ll be sad.
All in all, it was perfect timing for Lisa to come to Hongdae as she had hooked herself a nice young Korean man and was busily planning for her wedding. On today’s docket? Wedding shoes. Once we finished eating our super-fill, we went through the tiny little shoe stalls looking for shoes that would match her dress, would be comfortable, and that she’d realistically be able to use later. And we found them! With her use of Korean, she was able to get a deal too.
It’s so much fun wandering around with people who speak the language.
Now, before I actually stepped foot in Korea, I asked Lisa, a former Coloridian, if there was anything I could bring her from home. She had one request. Fudge. Or, more specific, she wanted Old Fashioned Fudge from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. If that’s what Lisa wants? That’s what Lisa gets, and I dragged a one-pound block of fudge in my suitcase.
Which I then promptly forgot in the Airbnb.
So, wedding shoes in hand, we made our way back to the apartment in order to get a lady her fudge. Very important K-business.
After weighing where my group had previously been, Lisa suggested we plan to go to Namdaemun Market, another large shopping area in Seoul. Per Tripzilla:
Namdaemun Market is a large traditional market selling everything from mountain gear and carpets to fashionable clothes. Getting lost in the dense maze of thousands of stalls is the best way to land yourself a bargain! Most of the clothes here cost between 10,000 to 20,000 Won. Namdaemun Market is such a great place for bargain-hunters that you might even afford to get stylish bags and fancy gifts for your friends back home!
We sent directions over to our ladies who were finishing up their spa day and headed over. Let me tell you, Lisa is a wealth of information for tips and tricks to excel in Korean visiting — and the look on people’s faces when we would walk by, and she’d just whip out her Korean conversational skills was hilarious!
We wandered Namdaemun Market, trying to keep an eye out for exactly where we were so we didn’t get lost, so we could figure out how to get back to the 5 subway stop when the ladies arrived. We drank bubble tea and looked through stalls. Where Myeondong (the shopping area we’d previously visited) is mainly larger, corporate stores, bright and clean and new, Namdaemun is smaller, mostly stalls, carts, and hidden doors that took you through hallways to backdoor shops. If you weren’t careful, you’d circle an area, go down a side street, and end back out where you started from. “How are we back in baby clothes?”
Collecting the ladies from their stop (only getting lost a bit) Lisa gave a very grateful SaraG her spare cell phone. Welcome back to technology SaraG! We weaved our way back through the streets, sampling street food, buying bags of socks. (They make great gifts!) That’s when it finally happened. Something we didn’t realize we’d been leading up to our entire time here. Ladies, meet Monster Hot Dog. Monster Hot Dog? Meet the ladies’ bellies.
It’s exactly what it professes to be. A corndog covered in french fries. Add an Americano, and I’m pretty sure this is what you call a balanced meal. We could probably leave Korea now. Was anything else going to be able to beat this moment?
Despite this, we managed to push on. Eating and chatting our way through the market, around the underground market, drinking coffee, catching up. It was a great, chill time.
Unfortunately, Lisa had a trek back, so we separated at the underground mall. The one where we had coffee next to a Johnny Rocket. That was weird. It was great to see you, Lisa!
Second winds coming into play, SaraG, Leila and I decided to go and do Hongdae right. We plowed through the center street, ready to get our busking on. Or. Ready to get our busking watching on. There were a variety of acts going on. Each in its own deligated circle. There are actual carve-outs in the walkways specifically for busking to happen, each about 10, maybe fewer feet away from each other, each with competing amps and sound systems. It’s a cacophony of sounds. The most popular buskers are actually not the singers, but the groups who do Kpop dance covers. There are very few solo people with the requisite guitar you think of.
We’d listen to a song, move onto the next one. One of my favorites was a full-on band who played down the street, reminding me of The Rose or CNBlue. Later on, as we were wandering our way back through, we saw the members move to the central busking circles, performing more solo stuff.
Everywhere you look you’d wonder, is this kid going to make it? Or, even more, is this group dancing a group of trainees? They were hugely popular, so who knows.
We wandered into my nirvana, a stationery store, where everything was cute and adorable, and made me want to spend, spend, spend. How can you say no to Leila in this hat???
Down Hongdae way, Leila bought her and her husband couple shirts. They were not this one.
We finally had some dukbokki we ate with toothpicks.
Which aren’t really toothpicks, but longer, slightly thicker food spears.
Lesson learned: There’s no way to classily eat street dukbokki.
(Edited out what I think is an adorable gif, but a gif I’m fairly certain SaraG will murder me if I post here.)
Thought the day didn’t start out as we planned, as we would continue to adjust on the fly, by the end of it, we all had a great time, all fed (or over-fed), happy, and stocked up on cute socks. We were going to be okay.
Short post this week as a lot of it was chatting to Lisa, catching up on life, getting the skinny on her super cute husband-to-be! Next week? Will be our final push with Miss Leila, who leaves us as well. Be prepared! Palaces ahead! Which means copious amounts of pictures ahead!
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY ONE: AIR PLANES, TIME TRAVELS, AND MULTIPLE SARAG(S)
- Korean Adventure Day Two: Sadly, No Zombies
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY THREE: THE SOLO JOB
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY FOUR: BY THE POWER OF STEVE!
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY FIVE: STAIRS, AND MEERKATS, AND POLICE…OH MY!
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY SIX: EMERGENCYS, BELLY RUBS, AND TIPSI TEXTS
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY SEVEN: THAT WEIRD SHAPED ARTY BUILDING IN GANGNAM
- KOREAN ADVENTURES DAY EIGHT: KPOP TAKES A VACATION
- KOREAN ADVENTURES DAY NINE: WE LOVE A MAN WHO LOVES A MARKET
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY TEN: STEPHANIE DOESN’T DO NAKED
- KOREAN ADVENTURE DAY ELEVEN: LET’S GET SAEGUKY
- KOREAN ADVENTURES DAY TWELVE: THAT TIME WE DIDN’T BREAKUP BY THE HAN