Episode 7: Getting Lost in Hongdae

After going to the Trick Eye Museum in Honda for the first time, I knew I had to come back to explore Hongdae in its entirety. I was entranced by it. Hongdae is another of Korea’s university neighborhoods, as Hongik University is located there. What’s so special about Hongdae is the nightlife it offers — the area is full of young and hip street shopping, street food, trendy, diverse restaurants, and night clubs! Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder the Trick Eye Museum is located in Hongdae. It fits in perfectly into the Hongdae scene.

It was a Thursday night, I didn’t have class but all of my friends did (woo-hoo!), so I decided to go exploring Hongdae by myself. I usually do like wandering and exploring alone like when I lived in New York before coming to Korea, but since I’ve made so many friends since coming to Seoul, alone time is a bit hard to find. I was excited to get in touch with my inner conscience again. I know it sounds crazy, but when you’re alone, you realize your thoughts and emotions much more clearer than when you’re with people. And so, I believe that a key to finding yourself is to be comfortable being alone!

I started off by going on a food adventure to find Mapo Mandu — a famous dumpling franchise known for its Galbi Mandu! As per Eatyourkimchi/Simon and Martina on Youtube, these are supposed to be super good. My favorite food of all time is dumplings, so I had to seek this one out. There’s two shops in Hapjeong, near Hongdae, so I thought it’d be perfect to go today. The verdict? They were… okay. They were really tiny, the filling was a bit small and dry, and overall did not meet my expectations. However, the filling is marinated quite well and has a distinct galbi scent and taste. Not bad, but not my favorite!

Nguyen, Anna; South Korea - Episode 7

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After eating, I headed off to find Hongdae but ended up getting lost for 2 hours? Meh. It happens all the time. I actually don’t mind getting lost because I end up exploring so much more, and the things I discover end up being even better than what I planned to see. Also — when I get lost and eventually find my way, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. A small victory to add to the list! But a victory nonetheless. I discovered a crazy fancy, beautiful outdoor shopping mall! The floral exhibit was captivating, and when you look up into the sky, colorful umbrellas are hung decoratively. I was so happy to have found such a beautiful place…  by accident!

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Anyway, I finally finished taking a gazillion photos and found my way to Hongdae. Hongdae is such a poppin’ place! I know I’ve said that many times about other places, but that just proves Seoul is just awesome. Right when I got off the train and walked up the stairs to exit, there were massive crowds of people — young people, mostly. And tourists from China again, like back in Myeongdong. You know a place is fun when there’s Chinese tourists.

I started walking past the stalls of street shops and food. I was drawn to the many different phone case shops on the street… YES. Finally! Hongdae is phone case Heaven. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’m quite crazily obsessed with cell phone cases. I am embarrassed about the number of cases I’ve purchased/owned for my previous phones… that I now don’t use. But, my argument this time is that I recently got my Note 5, and it only has one case. And out of all places to buy cute phone cases, Korea is IT.

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I spent most of my time just enjoying Hongdae’s lively nightlife atmosphere, besides going crazy over phone cases. I was glad to find a street dessert I’ve been dying to try — the Bboong-eo-bbang ice-cream fish! Bboong-eo-bbang is a Korean pastry that has the shape of a fish, but is filled with red bean or custard. This shop took it to the next level and filled the fish’s mouth with icecream, topped off with a chocolate-covered fruit skewer! It was super delicious — the ice cream turned out to be frozen yogurt, not vanilla ice cream. 100x more yummy!

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I concluded my Hongdae night in the best way possible — with luck, I stumbled upon a band doing a street performance! Which is actually also what Hongdae is well-known for. There was a singer, a guitarist and a drummer. I was moved by the main singer’s voice. They were actually really funny too, interacting with the crowd that gathered to see them perform and cracking jokes here and there. I enjoyed their performance very much, and was inspired to add more Korean Indie songs to my Kpop list!

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Oh Hongdae, thank you for your existence. I really do love you. There’s still lots to explore here, so I’ll be back! Until next time!

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