We went to Seoul for four days at the beginning of June! The perfect time to enjoy a summery atmosphere without the actual pains and sweaty horrors of the humid season in South Korea.
As before, I decided to document that short trip in my bullet journal. Little doodle sketches and notes fit in even the busiest traveling schedule and I love to look back through these diary entries later on.
Combining Work and Play in my Bujo
In addition, I had a couple of projects that required to-do list space, but I didn't want to have a separate daily/weekly spread. A little To-Do Box with my most important tasks was enough. With flying back and forth, family dinners and a night out in Hongdae, there wasn't that much time left for anything productive.
Incheon and Songdo, the "Smart City"
The first day was entirely consumed by the trip from Jeju Island (...and early morning packing efforts) to Incheon, visiting my little nephews, cooking, eating... You get the drift!
My in-laws are very laid back, so the evening was spent drinking Makgeolli with my father-in-law, watching documentaries with my mother-in-law (so strange to call them that - in Korean, they're just "mother" and "father" to me), and sketching for a series of new illustrations.
Saturday morning was when vacation really began!
You might know Incheon Airport if you've ever visited Korea, but Incheon is a sprawling city in its own right. From the older part of town where my in-laws live, we first traveled to Songdo. Songdo is a part of Incheon and was constructed during a ten year period with construction completed in 2015. It's still growing though, and everything is shiny and new (and clean!). My husband's cousin lives there, so we often visit the area.
We went to eat at a Mexican restaurant (yay, there was even a tortilla option I could eat!) and strolled around a huge shopping complex. If you're ever in Incheon area for a prolonged stay, I'd recommend going to Songdo for its abundance of modern cafes, wine bars, and just the plain convenience of the city's layout and ammeneties.
Hongdae: The Bread Blue Vegan Bakery
Then it was time for my favorite part of traveling to Seoul: Two hours long metro rides! (...nah. But really, it's pretty much the only time I get to check my phone AND there's free wifi.)
We went directly to Hongdae to check out a vegan bakery I'd read about. The Bread Blue seems to be really well known among Korean bloggers, and not only vegans, but lactose intolerant bloggers recommended the bakery & cafe.
I was ridiculously excited! While Jeju Island has tons of pretty cafes and a couple of traditional Korean vegan restaurants (Jayeoneuro being my favorite) I had never eaten vegan desserts before!
My switch to Veganism was a year ago, pretty much overnight, and I'd since only eaten cakes and bread I could make myself (banana bread all day, every day) or traditional Korean desserts like rice cakes, but nothing that was explicitly a Vegan version of a "normal" dessert.
Seriously, it was so hard to decide! In the end, I went with a Montblanc and soy milk latte and was just so incredibly happy to be there. Living in Seoul suddenly got a whole lot more enticing, just for the convenience of specialized food!
... but I'd probably be broke one month in.
Strolling around Hongdae...
With a big sugar-high induced smile on my face and a bit of time to kill, we took a stroll through the side-streets of Hongdae and the "Book Street" park. I'm working on a series of little house drawings, featuring anything from traditional Jeju stone houses to restaurants, so I always take a lot of pictures while walking around.
Gyeongeuisan Chaekgeori Park
The sign on this old train station reads "Chaekgeori" as in "Book Street". The whole park area features old train tracks, grassy fields to relax on, and lots of little wagon-style exhibitions and shops. Look for the 경의선 책거리 in Mapogu!
The tiny exhibitions and art book shops were fun to stroll through! Bring a cold drink along to combat the summer heat, though...
"Come in and have a look at the books~"
The cat drawing was so cute, especially with all the real cats in the park. They're mostly hiding on the outskirts though, because the whole area is a paradise for dog owners!
Actually, on that note: Staying cool is important, but if you're a bit sensitive to rapid hot-cold temperature changes like me, do bring a cardigan! All public spaces are air-conditioned to arctic temperatures.
With appetite fully restored but still more time to kill before our friends got off work, we finished shopping in the area (I was looking for a dress to wear to my brother's upcoming wedding. And heels. I haven't worn heels in over two years...!) and then went to the Cafe Sukkara for a light meal.
Cafe Sukkara is a cozy restaurant, serving Sangria, traditional Korean plum alcohol, sourdough bread and a variety of soups, salads, and stews.
Maybe because I'm a bit of a baker myself and make a lot of our meals from scratch anyway, but I wasn't too impressed... Usually, restaurants in Korea exceed my expectations, but Cafe Sukkara was just "fine". The cashew cheese was good, but the salad's dressing was non-existent (??) and the price a bit hefty for what we got. Oh well.
Shortly after it was time for more wine and snacks, anyway! We were sleeping over in Hongdae, or rather not sleeping all that much...
Luckily, I got a bit of a makeover in the morning. It was fascinating to get my makeup done by someone who a) knows what she's doing and b) got a completely different style. All dolled up (if still sleep-walking) we then went for brunch at a "slow food" restaurant called "OU", serving high-quality Korean dishes. I definitely recommend this place if you want to introduce someone, maybe your visiting parents, to traditional Korean cuisine: The side-dishes are delicious, the portions not too big, prices are moderate and the atmosphere reminds of a French bistrot with modern but cozy decor.
I love huge portions of rice, especially the Dolsot Bap (stone pot) variation!
Being vegan in Korea is a LOT easier if you have someone to share dishes with and who will eat stray bits of egg or unexpected meat... makes for fuss-free ordering pretty much anywhere.
Daelim Art Museum: The Selby House
Next up was the Daelim Museum. The Daelim focuses on unique, well-made exhibitions featuring modern art, fashion, illustration... at that time, it hosted a Selby exhibition. The whole building is just a joy to walk through, the exhibition layout is incredibly well thought-out (and even features English translations everywhere) and no matter what Daelim is presenting, it's bound to be lovingly arranged!
Be sure to arrive early on weekend days, though - the queue was no joke when we came out after our tour around 2pm!
My favorite part of the exhibition were the workplace photography pieces by Selby, but I only took pictures in the jungle room with all its life-size, colorful, moving illustrations! This was just so fun to walk through - I felt like a child again!
My husband is convinced that I'd be exactly this bird if I were to be reborn as an animal. Well, thanks, I guess.
Itaewon: ROOT Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant
After that, we drove to Itaewon and went our separate ways. Of course, more food was waiting! We met up with friends for coffee and then dinner, and as always happens with Koreans, went for even MORE food and drinks afterward.
Itaewon is great for trying international dishes, from Thai to Moroccan, but we went to "ROOT", which doesn't only offer vegan options but has a balcony! Sitting in the evening breeze while eating huge salad bowls, drinking wine and planning a vacation together was a perfect combination.
The avocado kimbap rolls were a favorite (I was the only vegan, but who doesn't like well-made avocado rolls?) and the salad bowls were great, too! After the slight disappointment that was Cafe Sukkara, I was all the happier to dig in!
Look at this goodness!
I never ask restaurants to "veganize" dishes (I find it impolite, especially here in Korea where menus are often limited and changing ingredients pretty much means changing the restaurant's specialty dish) so it was a lovely experience to have Kimbab that wasn't ... well, made at home. By me. It's a privilege for me to be able to eat out like this!
A sketchbook documenting all the fancy and not-so-fancy (aka supermarket) drinks we had!
That Soju bottle on the bottom right is my only visual reminder of the Sushi place we went to after ROOT. Since our friends live in the area, they knew a lovely little place serving Japanese-style food. I had Natto and the most delicious potato croquettes of my entire life!
Traveling to Seoul made me realize how easy it could be to eat Vegan in Korea if you live in a big city. While I love Jeju Island and cooking for myself, most restaurants there rely on seafood or the famous Jeju black pork, so while I'm always happy to tag along in groups, I usually just stick to rice and side-dishes. Food isn't everything, of course, but both Bread Blue and Root were a nice change!