HELLO, from the settled side!
You know, the life I said I’d try out this year?
Thus far, settled life has included the usual, discovering more about myself, acing adulting, and enjoying life even more. I have also been thinking less about life after “Hai” and focusing more on spending quality time in this vibrant city - even taking fewer and shorter trips out of Shanghai.
One of my short trips included a long weekend in Seoul this past April and I’ve finally gotten some time to tell you how it went down!
But first, a handful of my thoughts...
Life is crazy and beautiful and twisted and in all of that, it’s our job to intentionally fall into the meaning of it all.
With all of my findings, I continuously ask myself, is there more?
‘...Is there more’ ,more than some Drake lyrics, it’s a question that many of us ask ourselves. Many in particular, are people who live in countries that aren’t our own. We experience a different life, different cultures, and make friendships with a plethora of nationalities and it truly makes us just want to see and experience more of the world.
Sometimes wanting “more” encourages us to vacation frequently and other times causes us to pack up our lives and move to other places for new life-changing experiences and adventures.
For me, my current “standing still” status is enough for now, and even though I am still continuously trying to find my balance, life is currently better than I expected it to be and in the best ways possible…”
And now for my short stay in Seoul recap!
In synopsis, we did a lot of shit in three days...
...Seoul is two hours away from Shanghai, so a quick morning flight got us there in time to explore the city as soon as we landed. Known for its shopping and surgery, I was convinced that there was more to the city and upon arrival embarked on a search for the soul of Seoul.
With a search mission to execute, I arrived armed with a list (which became “The List” on the trip), and a boyfriend who just wanted to toss my list and have a relaxing long weekend in this city.
Can you even imagine! *slaps hand on face emoji.
My agenda admittedly became “The Agenda” and our vacation became a very hectic one, in which on the last day I finally found what I’d been looking for.
I must let you all know, that this is not my original blog post for Seoul, I wrote the first and literally felt overwhelmed with how much we did in such a short space of time. Our (and when I say our, I mean my) strategy was to start with the furthest neighborhoods of interest in Seoul and then work our way inwards. I honestly went a bit frenzied with trying to do and see too much in a short space-time and didn’t think anyone would read through a detailed recap of it all!
So I’ve decided to just list MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES...
1. Staying in Bukchon: A very old Hanok village in Seoul, it was the perfect location and accommodation experience for our trip! Submerged in a mix of old and new, we were able to experience the local more traditional culture as well as be surrounded by many cafes, shops, restaurants, museums, and even a palace!
2.Brunch at Plant: I’d read about a café called Plant, which was started by a vegan blogger living in Seoul. She’d realized the need for a vegan based café and long story short, eventually opened one on Itaewon. The food was fresh, tasty and healthy, the vibe was great and service friendly. I’m not vegan but I was in “healthy girl” heaven!
Plant’s menu offered vegan meals, shakes, and desserts. My favorite of which was their vegan chocolate cake with peanut icing. O.M.G. Yes!
3. Itaewon: We explored Antique Street, which has (as you may have guessed) a plethora of antique shops. Some shops specialized in certain items and others were filled with random objects. Either way, it was an interesting experience and the street somehow reminded me of little towns in the U.S.
Across the main street in Itaewon are winding hilly roads, which are filled with lots of cafes and the uphill walk was definitely worth it.
4. Tosokchon: The best Samgyetang (ginseng chicken) restaurant in Seoul. We wanted to have a traditional Korean dining experience and at this restaurant, we weren’t disappointed! The menu is very limited, but looking around it was clear that the ginseng chicken was the main attraction of this spot!
The chicken was cooked just right, flavorful and stuffed with rice, seasonings and submerged in soup, to which you added the ginseng. It was also accompanied by endless spicy kimchi of course! I was so hungry that I skipped the “food pic” and got right into the meal. Sorry guys!
5: Arario Museum:
“If all relationships were to reach equilibrium then this building would dissolve.”
A sign on this very intriguing building that will stop you in your tracks- or at least it literally stopped us!
A gem of a building and art museum, Arario Museum was one of the few places that we actually spent time. Time didn’t matter once we stepped into the building. We were captured by its mystery, architecture and the featured art itself and for once on the trip, we stood still.
At that time the museum featured work from various artists, among which were from Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol.
The art museum connects to another very modern structure which houses a bakery, and restaurant.
I highly recommend visiting the Arario Museum if you’re in Seoul. The architecture in itself is impressive and a perfect representation of Seoul preserving the old, by integrating it with the new.
6. Onion: Onion is also a great depiction of how Seoul keeps its soul, by merging old and new. Onion’s structure is that of traditional Korean architecture, but it’s a café where the cool kids go to have coffee and eat the very French pastries available there.
7. The city view from Naksan Park: It felt a bit surreal, standing on a mountain, but in the city. Seoul’s landscape is definitely worth experiencing. Go, go, go!
8. Gangnam: Because of our crazy hectic schedule, we arrived at Gangnam in the early evening, and were lucky enough to experience the city during daylight and as well as when the sun went down. This busy neighborhood has lots of shopping, restaurants, cafés and bars. I really enjoyed being on the quieter streets, which had a lot more character than on the main streets.
9. Buttermilk Biscuits: Located in Gangnam and highly recommended for their chicken and biscuits. This place is a must try, especially if you love fried chicken. I rarely eat fried chicken, but there were so many online recommendations about their biscuits that I was determined to visit and give it a try. I must admit that I overate and felt a bit sick afterwards, but that’s to illustrate how good their chicken and biscuits are. I.couldn‘t.stop.eating!
10. The bookstore at Queen Mamma Market: Also in Gangnam, we’d gotten there 30 minutes before it closed, which was barely enough time to check out the entire space. I’d spent most of my time searching for something special in their retail space, but wasn’t impressed with their selection and had to rush through the bookstore’s amazing selection.
11: Min’s Kitchen: A Michelin star restaurant with amazing food and service. The menu served traditional Korean food, but of course with a fancy twist and presentation. Sorry again guys, no food pics!
12. Once in a Blue Moon: Apparently listed as one of the world’s best bars, it was a great spot for an upscale but vibesy Saturday night. The lead singer wasn’t that great, but the overall experience was totally worth it.
13. Seongsu-dong: A.K.A the Brooklyn of Seoul. My Korean-American friend suggested that I check out this area, as it’s where the cool kids hang out.
We got there and at first were a bit skeptical. It was a factory neighborhood with lots of warehouses and at a distance, the streets looked uninviting and empty. But as we got closer, we started seeing signs of not just a vibe, but exactly the vibe we were looking for! Among the dusty, unattractive factories were conceptual cafes, design boutiques, edgy bars, quirky spaces, art galleries, and of course street art. Unfortunately, we were running out of time so had to hurriedly explore the area.
14. Urban Source: A large space in Seongsu-dong which has a café, restaurant, outdoor garden, rooftop space to hang out, and a quirky bar with a ball pit. We had brunch at the restaurant that was very new to the space...let's just say that I hope the menu is better by the time you visit- if you do!
15. Regular: Also located in Seongsu-dong, it is a fancy, but chill superfood restaurant, you know- regular.
Regular was the last spot we'd visited on our trip to Seoul and literally ran out of Regular to catch a taxi to the airport. It was a bittersweet moment because we were sad to be leaving as soon as we’d found our neighborhood treasure, but happy and a bit relieved that we’d finally found it!
I would say that we’d found the soul of Seoul, not just in one place, but in different parts of the city, but of course, Seongsu-dong was my favorite!
I’ll admit that a fear of leaving Seoul and not finding the “soul” crept up on me and I went into overdrive with a “strategy” that allowed me to visit as many places as possible and in retrospect, if I had to do this trip all over again, I would have definitely taken a slower pace.
Is there more? I’d say, yes, there’s always more! But we should remember to take the time to appreciate what we currently have, live in the moment and meditate on the “more” that we truly want.
I believe that it’s up to us to decide whether we should keep looking, get settled, or simply just take a break from the search! Most importantly we should acknowledge that whichever decision we make, that it’s not final because we are not trees.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about balance, and the balance that best suits you.
I must admit that I am still trying to find a balance and struggle with living in the moment but also wanting to speed up the moment so that I can get to the next great one. I usually think, oh wow, this is so awesome, what’s next!?
But even so, I am more than content with what I have, and intend to enjoy it to the fullest, in a city that I am truly convinced is enough for now. Till of course, I’m ready for, More…
'Til Next Time,