Monday, 16 November 2015

Goguryeo Blacksmith Village, Achasan

A few months back I posted about Achasan (아차산), a mountain in Eastern Seoul, and mentioned that I was hoping to go back to visit the historic village there. This weekend, I did, and it was great!

Goguryeo Blacksmith Village (고구려 대장간마을) was built as a set for filming the TV drama '태왕사신기' ('Legend'), and replicates a Goguryeo era working village, complete with a large water mill wheel and a brick oven. Although originally built for film, it now serves as a historical attraction and has exhibiton rooms with various Goguryeo artifacts on display, including many that were actually excavated at Achasan. It's actually really cool and interesting, and I didn't even have to pay an entrance fee!

Inside one of the houses
Goguryeo (고구려) was one of the ancient 3 kingdoms of Korea, from 37 BC to 668 AD. The significance of building this village here at Achasan, is that the ruins of several Goguryeo era forts are located on the mountain. So if you want to do the historical trail and visit the fort sites, the blacksmith village would be a great place to include in your trip, just to see the era 'brought to life'.

To get there, take the subway line 5 to Gwangnaru station (광나루역), come out of exit 3 and walk straight a few metres to the bus stop. Take bus 1, 9, 15, 92, 93, 95, 96 or 97 to 우미내검문소/고구려 대장간마을 (only 2 stops away, but takes a few minutes). Then cross the main street and follow the signs.

Alternatively, you can go there at the end of your hike by following signs from up on the mountain.

If you want to hike the mountain after visiting the village, just walk across the car park, and you will see a trail entrance with a sign to 'Stone Face' (literally a big face in the stone). You can follow the sign to see that easily, or pick another trail. Personally I went to see the Stone Face and then just continued up towards 대성암. The trail was very easy and gentle, quiet with not many other hikers around, and absolutely beautiful with views of the river visible after only a few minutes hiking upwards.

A better translation would be 'Big Rock Face'
After passing 대성암, the trail got a tougher with a steep rocky part, but that was only for a short way and then I found myself on a popular main trail that was very busy with other hikers, but which offered some more beautiful views of the city. I saw signs to all the fort ruins, but just headed down back towards Gwangnaru subway station.

When I got to the bottom of the mountain, I found that Achasan had another surprise for me - an 'ecological park', which looked absolutely splendid in vibrant autumn colours! Seriously, for such a small mountain, it really is packed full of hidden treasures and just keeps surprising me with something I didn't expect every time I visit! I think it's becoming my favourite mountain in Seoul.

Achasan Ecological Park (아차산생태공원)
I really recommend this mountain if you want to hike in Seoul. You can pretty much just go there with no plan and start walking on any trail, and I'm sure you'll find something fantastic wherever you end up.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Korean Weekly Vocab

I've hit a point in my Korean studies where I'm needing to memorize big chunks of vocab at a faster rate than I'm able to actually put the words into practice in daily life. So I thought it would be helpful to me if I make some vocabulary blog posts, and I hope some of you out there may find it useful, too!

Here are this week's words:

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bukhansan Hike Video

I haven't had time to post much on here recently, but we did film a short video while hiking a few weeks ago. Enjoy :)

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Dongdaemun Shopping

A few weeks ago I went fabric shopping with my vlogging partner-in-crime, Megan. We filmed a little bit while we were there and put together a short video:

Basically, if you need to buy fabric or any kind of sewing supplies in Seoul, Dongdaemun is THE place to go. The indoor market is a mega 5 floors packed full of every kind of print, lace, ribbon and bead you could imagine. Personally I find it suuuuuper daunting and difficult to navigate, but it is amazing. Thread is on the basement level, trimmings on the first and top levels, and fabric everywhere in between.

You can get there by coming out of Dongadaemun subway station exit  8 or 9. The fabric market is inside the massive building behind the fancy new hotel which is right outside the station.

While we were in Dongdaemun we also had a look around Doota, which is a very popular store for designer fashion. There are a lot of different brands there, some of them more interesting than others. A lot of people like it, whatever.

Dongdaemun is full of fashion markets, including the ones that open all night, but many sell only cheap quality clothes. Shopping has always been a big reason for people to visit the area, but now of course there is also the Design Plaza, which is a pretty cool building to look around and they have some exhibitions and events there. You can also walk to/from Dongdaemun along either the Cheongye stream or the old fortress wall, which is nice.

Anyway this was a kind of half-hearted post for our half-hearted video! But if you are into sewing and making stuff, do go and check out Dongdaemun fabric market, because it's awesome :)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Independence Day - What to do in Seoul this weekend!

Posting this a little late, but if you're wondering what to do this weekend (or what's left of it, at least!), how about getting out and about and educating yourself on the history of Korea's independence?

Here are my suggestions of places to visit in Seoul, to celebrate National Liberation Day:

1.  War Memorial of Korea (Click to read post)


Situated by Yongsan military base, in between Noksapyeong and Samgakji stations, this military history museum and memorial is free to enter, and offers an up-close look at machines, vehicles and weapons that were used in the Korean War, World War II and the Vietnem War.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ihwa Mural Village in Hyehwa

Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을) is a fairly well-known tourist spot right in the middle of the really popular Hyehwa area, but for some reason I had never been there before, in all the time I've been in Korea. Well I'm glad I finally went!

Actually, after finding a much smaller-scale version of one of these 'mural villlages' near Achasan the day before, I decided to make it my new project to try and visit as many of them as possible from now on. I had already really enjoyed looking around the 'Ant Village' on the edge of Inwangsan, and Suamgol in another region of Korea, and it seems there actually loads of these old mountainside villages that have been dolled-up with colorful murals, instead of being demolished, re-built and modernized.

So, to add to my list of these painted villages, I definitely had to take a trip to what is probably the most popular one in Seoul, Ihwa Mural Village. Plus it's like a 20 minute bus ride from my house, so I really had no excuse not to go.

Painted flowers ...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hiking Achasan

Achasan (아차산) is in Eastern Seoul and easily accessible by several subway stations. It's an easy and gentle mountain to hike, with fantastic views of Seoul and the Han river. It is connected to Yongmasan (용마산), and you can hike Achasan and Yongmasan together in one day.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Vlog News!

You can now follow me and my friends on Youtube! We will be making videos of various things around Seoul and Korea, in Korean and English, so if you are interested, please check us out here:

Erin and Megan on Youtube

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Vintage Clothes Hunting in Seoul

If you love vintage clothes, and rather than buy online you prefer to rummage through thrift stores for hidden gems, you may have a bit of a hard time in Korea. People here generally don't 'do' second-hand clothes. Or second-hand anything. They prefer stuff that's new, shiny and trendy. So vintage fashion is much more of a niche market, and thus harder to shop for.

However, there are a few ways to get a vintage fashion fix in Seoul: Firstly, there are some dedicated 'vintage' stores which stock carefully selected pieces, but just like vintage stores in the UK, prices can be high. One of the best places is A-Land in Myeongdong, which is not a vintage store but does have a whole floor dedicated to vintage. There are also a few vintage stores in the Apgujeong and Itaewon shopping areas.

Another way to find vintage clothes is in charity shops. However, there are very few of these in Seoul! The main ones are Goodwill, Salvation Army and Beautiful Store, and you can find the locations by searching online. These stores don't tend to have many quality items for sale, unfortunately, and sometimes they literally look like someone just threw out all their really old useless junk and dumped it in the shop. On the plus side, if you do buy anything here, at least you know your money is going to charity.

Somewhere in between a vintage store and a thrift store is 'Vin Prime', which sells everything from gaudy 1980s vintage, to newer second-hand stuff, to well-worn designer pieces from Dior, Celine, etc. They have a massive store inside the underground of Express Bus Terminal, at the tranfser area between subway line 3 and 7, a new store in Gangnam near the subway exit 12, and a few other locations. Personally I like the new Gangnam store best. You can find a few good pieces if you search the rails, but nicer items have a higher price, so don't expect to come away with bags full of bargains.

Found this great Adidas T-shirt and 1980s denim jacket for 9,000 Won each at Vin Prime

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu

Samcheong-dong (삼청동) is a really popular area for tourists to wander around in central Seoul. It's the part of Jongno-gu that contains Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can see old-style Korean housing, and is crammed with boutique stores and cafes. In fact, the whole of Jongno-gu is great to wander around. But what is particularly appealing about the area around Samcheong-dong is how colorful it is, with bright paintings on the walls everywhere you go. There's also Samcheong Park, a massive woodland area with an adventure playground for kids, and a hiking trail heading up towards the mountains.

The thing to remember if you want to visit Samcheong-dong for wandering around and taking pictures is this: GO EARLY. The little streets and alleys get jam-packed with tourists on the weekends and it can be kind of a nightmare, but it you go before 11am you can stroll around in peace. The stores and cafes start opening from 10am onwards.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The poop cafe, Seoul

There are a lot of cafes and tea shops in the tourist area of Insadong, central Seoul. Some of them serve traditional Korean herbal teas. Some brew excellent coffee. Some of them have a rooftop view. But only one of them, that I know of, is poo themed.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Korea Hiking 101

I wrote a post a few years ago about how popular mountain hiking is in Korea. But I wanted to give a bit more information for anyone who might be interested, since it's such an awesome way to spend a day, and it really is so easy. All you need to do is:

1. Go to a mountain.
2. Start walking uphill along any trail. As long as you see other people going the same way, it's all good.
3. If you get lost, just follow any trail downwards again, and eventually you will get to the bottom of the mountain, and then if you just keep walking you'll find a bus stop.

Seriously, mountain hiking is such a popular pastime here, all of the mountains in Seoul have very well maintained trails and are easy to get to by public transport, so there's no excuse not to go. I had never even been near a mountain before I moved to Korea, and now I don't know if I could live without them!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Seoul's Doll Cafes

If you are a doll collector and hobbyist, Seoul is a good place to be! Not only is there a bi-monthly doll fair, the Doll Free Market, and a Volks store in Hongdae, but there are also a few doll-themed cafes where you can hang out with other enthusiasts, take pictures of your dolls and even shop for clothing and accessories.

*2016 update: see link here.

My top pick: Cafe Nine9 Style, Hongdae

Nine9 are a small company that sell clothing and accessories for ball jointed dolls online, and they have also opened a physical outlet and cafe. I really like this place because they have a little 'photo studio' corner set up, where you are free to use their sets, props and lighting to take pictures of your doll. The cafe has a great atmosphere, and there is a good selection of things to buy in the store area.

Cafe Nine9 is located on the 'other', quieter side of Hongdae station. Come out of exit 1, walk 140m and take a right at the large junction. Walk 340m and take a left just before Shinhan bank. The cafe is on the corner of the next street, on the 3rd floor.

Cute and quirky: Alice's Teapot, Buam-dong

If you're not into ball joint dolls, there is a cafe that will appeal to collectors of other kinds of dolls, and even to those who aren't doll lovers, too. Alice's Teapot is chock-full of vintage fashion dolls and children's dolls, as well as old English style tea sets, creating an 'Alice's tea party' vibe. They do a great cup of tea, served of course in one of those beautiful cups, and I think they also serve cakes and desserts. There are soooo many dolls everywhere in this cafe!

Alice's Teapot is in the lovely neighborhood of Buam-dong, pretty far from any subway stations. I discovered it accidentally when taking a long stroll around the area. It's very close to 자하문터널입구 bus stop. Address: 종로구 부암동 208-39.

Alice's Teapot
Alice's Teapot
If you know of any other doll-themed cafes in or around Seoul, I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sanmotoonge: Coffee with a view

If you're looking for a cafe with a view in Seoul, there's probably no better place than Sanmotoonge (산모퉁이) on Bugak mountain. Famous for being a filming location for the Korean drama series "Coffee Prince", this cafe is usually quite busy on weekends, despite being located on a quiet mountain path about 700 metres uphill from the nearest bus stop.

The incredible view can be enjoyed from two different terrace levels at the cafe.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bukhansan trail: 정릉 - 대성문 - 구기

This trail in the southern area of Bukhansan mountain national park is a moderate hike, a few rocky parts on the way up, and gentle on the way down. Total 3.5 hours. No stunning views but pretty enough, and when I went there were a quite a few other hikers around, but it wasn't super crowded.