Seoul Hotspots: Apgujeong and Itaewon

Hello again!

Long time no speak. I have tons and tons x infinity photos to upload, and the enormity of this task has resulted in me doing… nothing. However! I have started sifting through everything and will be relaying my South Korean story (so far) to you. Today’s chapter: some favorite places for foreigners to visit/dine in – Apgujeong and Itaewon.

Me in Apgujeong, my spiritual home
Me in Apgujeong, my spiritual home

First of all: Apgujeong, my love! I adore this place and thoroughly enjoy myself every time I am here. We refer to it as ‘Gangnam’, and although it is near Gangnam, it is actually a distinctly separate district in Seoul. Known as the ‘Paris of Seoul’, it’s main street, Garosu-gil, almost could be straight out of Europe. As opposed to Gangnam, which is bigger, flashier and colder, Apgujeong is charming, cute – and still pretty darn flashy.

Just leavin' a Louis Vuitton case on a badass scooter, no biggie
Just leavin’ a Louis Vuitton case on a badass scooter, no biggie

There is no shortage of anything, including one of South Korea’s favorite pasttimes, plastic surgery. The first time I came here, about a week or two into my stay in Korea, my friend and I were amazed at the complete shamelessness of shoppers still wearing their plastic surgery bandages straight out of the clinic.

One of the many plastic surgery clinics in (the wealthy parts of) Seoul
One of the many plastic surgery clinics in (the wealthy parts of) Seoul

To be fair, I haven’t seen that since, although people here are very style conscious. Sometimes, walking down the street feels like you are at a fashion parade because everyone looks like models. Korea in general is fashion conscious and looks-based, which, for example, leads to certain questionable hiring practices that I don’t always agree with. But here, it’s just a place for beautiful to people to swan around and have fun, and what is wrong with that?!

On our first visit here, we happened to find this cafe which was rather serendipitous:

Naww! It's mine! So cute <3
Naww! It’s mine! So cute <3

One of my favourite brunch places, The Flying Pan, is located just off Garosu-gil and is to. die. for. Coming from Melbourne, I miss my all-day, anywhere brunches, but this place makes me much less homesick! The decor is stunning, so shabby chic with everything in distressed white, with candles stacked on the ledge above the door and an incredible, low-hanging chandelier. The Flying Pan has two other spots, one in Itaewon (which, in my opinion, doesn’t hold a candle – so to speak – to this one, my spiritual home), and one in Seocho, which I am yet to indulge in. Either way, their french toast with grilled bananas and ricotta is incredible. I want to weep just thinking about it. I will do a rave review soon, I have plenty of pictures – and experience!

Why do I love coming to Apgujeong so much? The vibe of the street always gets me. Koreans seem to love French-inspired things (L’Occitane is huge here, as are bakeries called Paris Baguette and Tous le Jours, par example), and they apparently actually created it in order to recreate the romance and Euro-ness of Paris. Well, it got me! It works! Just like Miley Cyrus’ bizarro campaign for her new CD shot her to the no. 1 spot around the world (and maybe a little bit in my heart – don’t judge me!), Apgujeong’s apparently contrived charms get me every time.

If you are ever in the neighbourhood, please do yourself a favour and get down to Apgujeong!

Next: Itaewon!

Itaewon's skyline (sort of, not really)
Itaewon’s skyline (sort of, not really)

This is the foreigners capital of Seoul, and it actually does not feel like you are in Korea when you are there. Well, almost! The presence of Hangeul (the Korean name for the Korean language) never fails to bring me back to where I am… but it really is so Western here. There are so many foreigners here, many of whom are army men (and women) posted on the American army base nearby.

Because of this, Itaewon is one of the best places to go to if you are craving Western food. Although I have only been to a handful of restaurants there, there are plenty on offer (including the elusive Middle Eastern cuisine with -gasp – real chickpeas!) to ward off homesickness.

The backstreets of Itaewon
The backstreets of Itaewon
My slightly less romantic namesake establishment
My slightly less romantic namesake establishment

 

Also, Itaewon’s nightlife has been kind to me! There is one club that my friend and I go to (on the off chance we feel like going) which usually plays good dance-y music and has a good vibe. I am not a big fan of Hongdae, the trendy, hipster part of Seoul, because its clubs (like many Melbourne clubs, I guess – I’m not really into that scene unless it involves terrible/awesome 90s and/or top 40 hip-hop) cater for a slightly different (cooler?) clientele. The best part of all of my Hongdae nights, hands down, is getting a slice (or two) of Monster Pizza, the most amazing pizza I have tasted here, and possibly ever. It always makes my night 1000% better! But Itaweon, in my opinion, has a more chilled vibe and more places to actually go to to get down, if you will.

Itaewon residences
Itaewon residences

In all honesty, I don’t make a habit of hanging out there too much because I sort of feel like… I could be anywhere! There is so much Korea has to offer, in terms of real, Korean traditions, cultures, dishes and past times, that hanging out in the foreign district too much feels like a bit of a ‘cop out’ to me. That’s not to say that I am above it, not at all! Sometimes you just need a burger or a bowl of pasta, and lord knows ain’t nothin’ wrong wit that. And of course Korea is become increasingly more Western as time goes on.

However, although I am (shamefully) yet to learn a decent amount of Hangeul (I know a few key phrases, such as ‘I would like one cafe mocha please’ and ‘how much is this?’), I still have hope that I will, and I want to immerse myself in the Korean culture as much as possible. When you constantly head to the district which could be any of our home towns, full of foreigners and native English speakers (blergh, yuck!), it makes that sort of hard to do. Although I am as partial to a delicious kebab (or slice of Monster Pizza) as much as the next waygook (foreigner), it is not my ‘safe place’. And I am proud of that! I love my so-Korean-it-hurts-in-a-good-way home of Guri!

Wow, I was not expecting that rant! TL;DR? Basically, I love Korea and want to get to know it in as many ways as I possibly can 🙂

So that ends today’s (rather erratic? or was that just me?) post on these two popular Seoul haunts. Have you learnt a little something? If the only thing you take away from this post is that I love French toast, I will be more than happy with that. Let’s face it, the world needs French toast, and I am going to keep ordering it and chowing down on it to help out humanity, one bite at a time.

Til next time, friends!

Steph x