Friday, October 26, 2012


Seoul, 6-12 October 2012, Part 2

I am a total sucker for old stuff-- retro, old-skool, nostalgia-- call it what you will; and wayyy before it was trendy to do so. Even in school, I was watching old movies, I Love Lucy, that sorta thing. I always thought I should have been born in the Sixties or Seventies. I even played Sandy in a school production of Grease (which is set in the 50s)! 

So I was very excited to stumble across the National Folk Museum, and purely by accident at that!  I was wandering around the GyeongBokGung Palace, trying to kill time before the palace guided tour, when I saw the museum tucked away in the palace gardens, and decided to spend my hour there, since it was free anyway. Bonus!

The indoor exhibitions were pretty neat , essentially covering the "History of Korean People," which features materials of everyday life in Korea from prehistoric times up to now. A second exhibition hall is titled, "The Korean Way of Life." As you walk through this exhibit, you can actually feel what it was like to be Korean villager in ancient times.
But the best part for me was hands-down the open-air exhibits. There were two mini sections. One gives you a glimpse of what Korean life could have been like between the post WW2 years and the 1960s though a little village of some typical shops you might see on the high street then-- the tailor's, a photo studio, restaurant,  school house etc. This was hands-down my favorite tourist attraction! Especially compared to the palaces. The Koreans tend to strip the palaces of all their interior furnishings, so all you really see are the exteriors. Granted, the places are in themselves pretty photogenic, with bright multi-coloured roofs, but I find it difficult to picture what happened within those barren walls. Besides, most of these palaces are also pretty new, by historical standards, as they had to be rebuilt after the originals were burnt down or destroyed during the wars.
 Some vignettes of life in a little Korean village in the retro-era

Old fashioned coffee-and-music shop! Has a little bit of American diner influence?

Old fashioned comic shop? Or library?

School-room. With a super old-style heater in the middle. Don't you wish you could have studied here?

Hand- painted movie posters. I see Audrey Hepburn and Bruce Lee?!


No idea what this is anymore. Someone's kitchen?

Going a little further in time...and remembering scenes from one of only 2 Korean drama serials I have watched---Da Chang Jin (I know...I need to keep up with the trends!)-- I found.....

Onggi! In the olden days, kimchi was made by fementing veggies with red-chilli paste in these babies, which were then placed in the courtyard or buried in the ground.

We went for a fine dining meal in Jungsik, and dessert was onggi shaped choco mousse. The chef shaped soil out of coffee bean and almond bits, shrewn flower petals and leafs, and even created rocks out of sugar dusted nuts! So cute!! Even though taste-wise, it was nothing that crazy, top marks for creativity!

Of course, these days, kimchi is no longer stored in courtyards, especially in built-up cities. However, it is still a ubiquitous part of every Korean's meal life, and I guess every Korean girl must know how to make her own special brand of Kimchi. We found Kimchi (stored in tupperware in the fridge) made by our hipster guesthouse owner, a 20 something girl! So nice to have such tradition engrained in the young generation. I wonder if Singaporeans have an equivalent?

Speaking of hipster guesthouse owners, really really enjoyed all the places I stayed in this trip.

On the first night, we stayed at Yooginoong, a little guesthouse not one month old. It is in the Hongdae University area, so you get the student-town feel-- all cheap bars and restaurants and trendy clothing shops. Love!

The owner is such a cool kid-- a 20/30something year old student, Noey. Wish I could have hung out with her. She was so nice to wait to pick me up from the train station to her hostel cos I'm useless that way about navigating. She and her cute doggy Suni, made her cute hostel even cuter. Good luck with Yooginoong, Noey!

Love the space-- it has such a hopeful feeling, and is just so bright and cheerful and homely all at the same time. Can't describe it. Maybe new stuff just radiates such a feel?

Of course I chose the red bunk bed! Love the bright colours of the linens. Each bed comes with its own lamp, power point and curtain if you need privacy. Of course what did I do but ripped out the curtain the very next morning. Typical klutz.

There's a little terrace where you can smoke or have breakfast in the morning, with Suni scampering around your feet. Noey provides bread and coffee, which you prepare yourself. This is perfect for a simple breakfast. I think I can LIVE in the house all day, its so comfortable.

The only thing to note is that there is only 1 shower and 1 toilet. Not ideal as maximum capacity is 13-- 2 dorms, 1 double room, and Noey's room. That presented a bit of a problem in the morning, as there were around 6 girls that night, all wanting to wash up and preen all at the same time!

Yooginong was introduced to us by Noey's friend, Arum, who runs Jaam Guesthouse. We stayed there for 3 nights in the Blue Room. I loved the decor here too! The place has a eclectic, hippy feel to it. Arum is so thoughtful to have an iPad and a number of Apple charging cables lying throughout the apartment for guests' use. AND we were so lucky to have the whole apartment to ourselves! Kitchen, bathroom and that gorgeous gorgeous balcony.

Our room. I'm not a big fan of the striped sheets, but somehow, everything works together. (Coat is mine. 25 pounds from London!)

The other room. The sheets were batik-ish. Indon yet Jappy.

View whilst washing up. Right next to this are assorted bottles of liquor.  The girl likes her drinks! (no kimchi in her fridge though Araam later brought over home-made jam and cheese spread). She even left a bottle of home-made Makoli (rice soju) for us and encouraged us to have friends over.... chill in this space. The mismatched furniture, various lamps and hap-hazard cushions strewn around this narrow space somehow works to create a fantastic cozy hang-out place. I wished this was my apartment where I can bring friends home for supper and drinks. 

So inspired to get my own place now! And decorate it like how these girls have done. 

Years ago, I used to dream of owning my own guesthouse. It always was a pipedream, given the high start-up costs involved, but working towards my own nest is definitely possible. Gonna work towards that!

That's all for this post! So much more about Seoul that I liked, maybe another post? Who knows?

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