Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oh my Seoul

It feels good to be blogging again :) Was meant to write this post last week but time got away from me. I sit here with 2 and half weeks of school left and am not quite sure where the time has gone - feels really surreal that this is all coming to an end. Part of the 'lasts' was my trip to Seoul with Nicola which was my time to say goodbye to the vibrant city. Technically I'm going back this upcoming weekend to visit the DMZ but that's going to be very different. Seoul trips have definitely been a highlight for me this year; the city has so much to offer and is just so completely different to anything I have ever experienced. I never leave Seoul feeling refreshed and rested - weekends there are busy and packed with trips on the stuffy subways, but I love it. I say that after a weekend there I suffer from a Seoul hangover on the Monday, and need another rest day! But I'm really going to miss this crazy city. Anyway, let me tell you about my last weekend there.

Nic and I left Jecheon early, to make sure we could try and fit everything in. We had planned the weekend out completely which in hindsight was the best idea; we had goals to reach and that helped fit everything in! We started off in Insadong, one of my favourite places to visit. It's pretty and calm, filled with loads of little curio shops which abound in Korean trinkets, and I managed to get some last minute gifts for friends (and me). Insadong is a must see if you're looking for gifts or showing guests from home around. From there we made our way to the Gangnam area. Initially we were meant to have lunch there but I had an appointment we needed to make - my tattoo!!

I have one tattoo already and what they say is true - after your first one, you just want more. I love tattoo culture; the idea of your body telling a story. I've always been attracted to it and although I never thought I would get one, I knew coming to Korea that I wanted something done to represent my year here. So after almost a year of thinking and planning, I went ahead and booked with Tattoo Korea in Seoul, and arrived at their offices excited but a little nervous. I had a vague picture of what I wanted in my mind: I had spoken to a friend back home about designing something but I kept changing my mind and so thought it was better to take some ideas to the artist and let them draw it up. I had emailed the main guy, Aerok, to make the booking and had specifically asked for San Lee, who I had heard great things about. After re-confirming the booking, I thought I was sorted. When we arrived though, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Aerok speaks fluent English but my impression of him wasn't all that amazing...he seemed a bit impatient and not all that involved. Which would be fine, except he hadn't booked me with San Lee, but deposited me with a young Korean guy named Memo, who spoke little/no English. At this point I started freaking out as he was told I wanted a feather, which I didn't, and started searching for feather images. I managed to put a stop to that and awkwardly got the pictures up that I wanted but the whole process could have been better facilitated had Aerok actually stayed to help. I understand I'm in Korea but I just expected to be put with someone I could talk with (from what I had read on the internet). I had to quickly accept that the whole design process I was hoping for needed to be thrown out the window. I was able to type the wording out, and he helped me choose a font etc, and we then sat at the computer playing around with an image until I was happy. As with everything, looking back on it I know this was the right thing to idea was a little complicated and I might have ended up feeling pressured to get something I would later regret. And then it was go time - I was quoted a price (heads up, you will pay a LOT more in Korea than back home because they import their instruments) and we had decided on a position (Nic was very helpful here, I couldn't have done it without her), so I sat in the chair, ready to end my year in a symbolic way. The pain, as with the first one, was minimal; people have different experiences but for me, tattoos are not all that painful (keep in mind I got simple things done). Memo was such a cute guy, very helpful and professional - I'm glad I got him. The whole place was clean and warm - I really would recommend their studio, as long as you have realistic expectations. Their work is top notch as are their facilities's just the design process that was a bit disappointing for me. Here are some pictures of the process (Nic was in control of the camera and got a little trigger happy haha).

Feeling nervous as I wait

The room where I was inked

Focus on both our faces haha

The finished product - the next day
Memo the cutie 
I am thrilled with my new ink - it represents my time in Korea and life in general. I feel like I've really learned to spread my wings over the past 2 years and the birds are symbolic of that. I would highly recommend Tattoo Korea, and I'm happy I went with them. It was all part of the experience for me :)

After that was done, we had some time to venture into Gangnam. We had hoped to take a picture with the Gangnam subway sign, but we came out at the wrong stop. No worries, we found the Rodeo Drive of Korea (in Cheongdam-dong) and stood gawking at all the branded stores. There is a definite swanky feel to the area - shops offer valet parking, there is very little trash around and all the cars seem bigger and more expensive. We had a funny experience outside Louis Vuitton where we saw a Rolls Royce parked and went up to it to try take some pictures, all the time exclaiming how we can't believe it's a Rolls etc etc...the shop assistants were looking at us like we were homeless people though and one came out to keep an eye while the other one walked up to the car, to hand a women's jacket to the man SITTING INSIDE THE CAR. The whole time we were messing around, there was someone inside the car. Typical. We had a good chuckle :)


Standing on Rodeo Drive, with Gucci in the background and awesome balloon lights in the trees.

It was cold and I was tired, so off we went to Myeongdong for a final shopping spree! We met up with some friends for dinner and took advantage of all the big sales going on. Myeongdong is my favourite place to shop here and I will miss all the clothing stores like Forever 21 and UniQlo. It was nice to be there at night, with all the lights. I managed to not blow all my money, something which is way too easy to do in Seoul! After that we had decided to go and try find somewhere to sleep in Hongdae, as we wanted to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe in the morning. We were banking on finding a love motel but what no one told us is that there are no love motels in Hongdae. Fail. By this time we were both really tired from a long day, so hopped in a taxi to the neighboring area, Sinchon, where we found a beautiful motel to stay in. It had a big flat screen TV, was so clean, a nice big bed (there is nothing worse than walking into your hotel/hostel/motel/pension at the end of a long day and seeing you have mats to sleep on, no bed) and a BATH! A hot bubble bath to rest my aching body was the perfect way to end my day :) We didn't rush the next day, so took our time waking up and watching some weird Kpop concert before trekking back to Hongdae to find the Hello Kitty Cafe. The internet lied to us, and so after walking around aimlessly for too long, we tried to find the cafe on our own. It's really easy to find: it's close to TGI Fridays in Hongdae - just up the road and right at Tony Moly and you can ask someone to direct you (sorry, I should be better at giving directions). I had read on a blog that it was quite disappointing so we didn't know what to expect...I was so pleasantly surprised! It's an overwhelmingly cute pink building, and the whole place is pink enough to make you sick. We got there close to 12, so it was open but not too busy...we ordered our coffees and went upstairs to take a bazillions photos. The coffee was god enough and came with Hello Kitty faces. The chairs had pink bows on them, Hello Kitty pictures and paintings were everywhere, it was all sweet enough to give you diabetes. If you are a Kitty fan - go there. It is TOTALLY worth it, and we spent a really nice hour or so soaking up the kittyness.

The outside
The coffee

Pink, pink everywhere! 


We grabbed a burrito from a little Mexican place before going to do some admin stuff for Nic, and that was our weekend. It was probably one of the best weekends I've had in Seoul. Although exhausted, we managed to fit everything in, we had some amazing experiences and I felt like I left Seoul on a high note.

On this note, it's time to say goodbye to my crazy China, Nicola. She is renewing and staying in Korea so leaves to go home this week for a months vacation, meaning I won't see her again before I leave. I know blogs aren't the place for too much mush but she has been a supporter of my blog the whole year so I think it's appropriate. I never expected to find someone here who would be as silly and crazy as me, and have really had the most amazing year getting to know Nic. I will miss her dearly, but she promises to come and visit SA next year where I can hopefully put to rest a lot of her totally absurd ideas of my home country ;)
This year would NEVER have been the same without you Nic, for reals. Thank you for everything.

And I'm out amigos - have a great week!

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