Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Cafes of My Dreams

Actually! They don't have to only be part of my dreams anymore! Korea is home to many weird things... they embrace certain things and they shun others... God forbid you blow your nose in a restaurant or cafe.. but PLEASE put on wedding dresses, entertain the cats and don't let them eat your snacks or drink your coffee!!! Beware, the latter is easier said than done!

Cat Cafe, Jeonju

No, you do not drink cats at this cafe. You do eat them though.

Calm down, I'm joking!

So at the cat cafe, you buy a coffee, smoothie, tea or waffle and pet cats for as long as you'd like (err... until it closes and employees kick you out!). Sounds strange.. and it kind of is. There were
cat houses and scratch posts and toys and heaters everywhere. It was a very tiny cafe and not as froufrou as the ones in Seoul or 'legit cities'.. but it served it's purpose and we got to swoon with

all of the kitties. I've honestly never been around pure bred cats and these cats seemed so.. rich and snotty compared to my stray lovebugs I used to have! They didn't even PURR! It was crazy.. I guess they get so much love from the people who come through the cafe every day, that it's old news to be petted!
Soon.. I will venture to a dog cafe (and a nicer cat cafe).. I know where one is in Myeongdong, Seoul.. so it's a must the next time I go up there!!

The picture below was a prime photo-op at snack time... they weren't like this the whole time. They were more spread out, and wandering around.. getting into mischief of course!!

Wedding Dress Cafe - Party Princess Cafe, Seoul

I surely didn't type that one wrong folks! I know what you're thinking.. trying on wedding dresses before you're engaged is bad luck.. so I suppose I jinxed myself but, how can you resist the opportunity! I find myself saying this A LOT in Asia!! This part of the world has so many things to offer, SO many things to try and I for one am going to take full advantage!

Korean girls (::cough:: and boys!) LOVE to be girly, dressed to the max and have their picture taken! WHO doesn't like that?! ...erm.. every once in a while!!! My friend Chelsea first told me about these alleged Dress Cafes a week or so ago... and I fully didn't believe her... we researched it, and found a few in Seoul (I'm sure they have them all over!). I found a couple of blogs about people's adventures there, and it looked beyond enticing! We were SO excited to go. I still didn't quite 'believe' you could actually do this, until I had a wedding dress ON!

So we took the subway to Euljiro 1 Station, found the Ibis Ambassador Hotel, beside the hotel there was a connected building with restaurants, cafes, shops.. and within that there was Party Princess.


That's what we kept saying, anyways.

So here are the steps we went through:
1.) Relax
2.) Order a bev.. strangely enough they had zero coffee, but they had teas, smoothies, hot chocolate, etc.
3.) Drink your drink, relax, sneak pictures of the cute Korean couples that are dressed in a bridal gown and tuxedo, taking ridiculous pictures together
4.) We were ordered to finish our drinks, use the bathroom, do our hair and do our make-up pre-wedding dress... so we followed orders

5.) Choose a dress from the $4 (2 dresses to choose from), $10 (6 dresses to choose from), $15 or $30 category(lots of dresses to choose from, also some formal dresses)
(we all went with the $10 dresses of course, a little worn/dirty, but served their purposes.. and of course the PRETTIEST dresses were the $30 ones.. that's what all of the Korean girls went with!)

6.) Go to the fitting room and be pinned into the dress (none of them had zippers.. so they were one size fits most! Superb idea!)
7.) Add a tiara

8.) We were told the store was our playground.. so play we did!

I can't even begin to describe how much fun we had! I don't know why people don't do this more often.. although I'm sure those who live in Seoul take full advantage!! I'm definitely not in a rush to put on a 'real' one though.. glad I got any sort of desire out of the way, so I can take full advantage of my youth!!! :) Amazing! It literally felt like Alice in Wonderland.

And the Korean couples that were there were SOO adorable. They don't really show PDA (especially no kissing) in public.. so when this 19 year old couple asked me to take their picture (while he was in a tux, and she was in a gown), I offered to take a few more, they did a super cutesy one.. so then I said, OH! Idea!! KISS!! and the boy immediately went blush, said no no no no no (and I'm thinking.. what are you brother and sister then?! Of course forgetting about the whole cultural difference thing) and finally after a minute of convincing, and the girlfriend wanting to.. they do.. he blushes like crazy and turns around in the corner hiding. It was HILARIOUS!

The Hello Kitty Cafe
This cafe was EVERYTHING Hello Kitty.. from the cups, to the napkins, to the seats, to the mirrors, to the wall cut outs, to the figurines, to the tables... I think you get the point! :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Need Crampons?!?

On January 14th, Chelsea and I decided to be super productive and hike up Moaksan mountain. ( The mountain that I've previously blogged about that absolutely kicked my butt!)

Well, our plans ended up changing a bit! But don't they always?! Traveling has absolutely taught me patience and well... in all honestly, it has taught me to expect less.

"Luxury bus" = a bus with a semi-reclining seat, no bathroom
"Mexican Food" = a restaurant that only serves fried chicken
"3 hours to Cusco" = 6.5 hours

I literally could make a list that went on and on, but is pretty difficult to think of the little things (since so many happen day to day when abroad). Thank Goodness I'm this way (also, thanks to my Dad!), when I find myself traveling with extremely picky people.. I cringe a bit on the inside, and thank God that I do not allow ALL of the little things to ruin my trip/day/vacation/LIFE!

Anyways, when I said that our plans changed a little bit.. they ended up changing a lot! The first part of the day, Chelsea and I were going to meet downtown to take a bus together to the mountain.. of course, I missed the first city bus I could have taken, and the next one that I "knew" for sure would take me straight downtown wasn't coming for about 20 minutes... so I checked the bus map, and found one that looked like a go! Get on the bus... and dangit, it isn't exactly going the route I thought it would. I asked the bus driver in my amazing (hah! non-existent) Korean where Gaeksa was, because I was already like 5 minutes late meeting Chelsea.. and he said I had 3 more stops. I get off the bus, and I'm on the opposite side of Gaeksa (btw, 'downtown' is really just 4 blocks by 4 blocks of a busy shopping area)... I haven't exactly explored very much of my city yet, I know certain areas of Seoul MUCH better than I do my own city (unfortunately!).. so I call Chelsea and say 'Uh Oh! I tried to pick the right direction to meet you at Starbucks, and I asked a guy, and he pointed in this direction, and now I'm just so confused, and I'm soorrryyy, I don't know where I am! I'm so stupid, why does this always happen!!! Where am I?!" haha (this wasn't the first time Chelsea has had to rescue me from the Gaeksa area). And she figures it out right away, comes and finds me (I was hardcore walking in the wrong direction). Luckily she is such a chill person, it doesn't bother her at all, love her!

So that was problem number 1... problem 2... we get on the correct bus, get dropped off at the trail head of the mountain... and everything is PURE ICE! Most all of the snow/ice had melted in the city weeks before hand (it snowed the last part of December) and we had NO CLUE, whatsoever... we just stood there.. in our tennis shoes and our non-snow gear.. staring, dropped jaws, staring... one person falls.. we look around and see what all of the Koreans are wearing (because of course there are looootttss of people there hiking).. they had freaking chains and picks on their feet.. another person falls.. you have to be kidding.

Luckily Chelsea and I both didn't like the idea of broken bones (or more bruises.. see picture from my fall down the stairs on January 1st because of the random quick ice storm we had in the middle of the day)... we found out that the things on their shoes were called crampons... we weren't knowledgeable enough to realize that they weren't ridiculously expensive, and we could have bought some and strapped them to our shoes for about $8.. but you live and you learn.. and when we realized that when we climb Hallasan mountain in Jeju Island (Hallasan is the reason we wanted to hike that day anyways.. to prepare a bit, since we don't work out) the week after.. we would need them! We got them, and all was well.. we actually LOVED using our crampons.. I can't wait to get a chance to wear them again!!

This is kind of what our crampons looked like.. so cool:

We were super bummed... but kind of relieved at the same time (hehe). We needed a Plan B.. it was cold, it was windy.. what do ya do? DAK GALBI FRIED RICE is what you do! Our go to place whenever something is wrong or we're hungry.. super cheap, super delicious, super spicy, awesome restaurant! After that, we decided to do some shopping at the Moranae Market... it was a lovely walk and we had fun gawking at the random happenings around us!
Pictures from the Moranae Market:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Years Eve in Korea

This was my first New Years Eve spent in Korea... and first time ever in a different country! I was so excited, I didn't know what was going to happen!! Many of the East Coast Koreans have sunrise festivals to watch Korea's first sunrise of the year.. which is such a novel idea! And some climb a mountain to watch the first sunrise as well... I was mostly tempted by this one, but I couldn't find a Korean who had done it (or willing to do it) or a foreigner that would go with me... so I had to ex that idea, unfortunately!!

BUT, instead I had dinner with a friend, some drinks/scrabble/Connect 4 (
It was AMAZING!!! Almost surreal.. and of course.. guess who didn't bring her camera?! I shouldn't even say of course, because I usually ALWAYS bring my camera, but I've been trying to not use it too much until I go to Cambodia/Vietnam... that poor baby has been through so much while backpacking, that even though it isn't very old, I'm very fearful for her life!

The countdown was done in Korean... I totally joined in, and only switched 2 numbers while counting backwards, and as the reached one... the awesome fireworks show began, and hundreds and HUNDREDS of people in the crowd began releasing balloons that had tags with wishes written on them attached.

It was such a beautiful site.. I got goosebumps, and not just because it was cold outside!!! What a wonderful way to spend New Years Eve!!