life

Travel Diaries: Seoul, Day Two

Monday, October 28, 2019

... picking up from where I left off, I woke up bright and early on my first weekday in Seoul to check out the views of Seoul atop Eungbong Mountain Park. I stopped in a Myeongdong 7-11 to pick up a custard bun and I was on my way.

I don't know if you've figured me out yet, but there are three main things that interest me when I visit a new place: the art, the food and the parks.

Eungbong Mountain Park is a bit of a trek outside of downtown Seoul, and I guess a lot of romantic scenes have been filmed there for Korean dramas. After somehow successfully navigating the transfer between Seoul's metro to a type of commuter line (successful in that I walked back and forth between the staircase to the eastward train and the westward train for about nine minutes, unable to figure out which one was which), I alighted at Eungbong Station and walked -- again, uphill through a residential neighborhood -- for about 15 minutes before I found myself at the base of Eungbong Mountain Park.

This is the sight I found before me:

Seoul Eungbong Mountain Park view skyline South Korea travel trip solo female

It took me another three minutes to figure out where the start of the hike upwards was: a staircase hidden behind the restroom building off to the left of this rock climbing behemoth.

The hike was not easy but it wasn't particularly treacherous either. It was definitely sweaty. I encountered a number of older women along the way who seemed to live in the neighborhood, for whom the uphill climb seemed to be part of their daily exercise. They passed as I stopped for photos at each landing, though they would've passed me anyway, for they were in better shape than I.

Naturally, the views got progressively better as I climbed.

Seoul Eungbong Mountain Park view skyline South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Eungbong Mountain Park view skyline South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Eungbong Mountain Park view skyline South Korea travel trip solo female

When I reached the top, I found a park bench beneath some trees and enjoyed my custard bun. The hike was well worth the serenity atop the park.

I'd wanted to see both Olympic Park and Songpa Naru Park next, but it was already about 10am and I was scheduled to meet my friend around 2pm back at my hostel. I had to make a choice, and Olympic Park -- about an hour away -- was the chosen park.

Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female eternal flame

I originally thought the flame was from the Olympic torch dating back to the 1988 Seoul Games, but I couldn't find anything online to corroborate that belief. However, it appears to be something even cooler: an eternal flame that wishes peace, harmony and happiness for all the world's people. You can see the Seoul Peace Declaration inscription in my photo.

Olympic Park is massive. Among the structures that it contains (not a comprehensive list): Olympic Gymnastics Arena (also known as KSPO Dome, where none other than one Shawn Mendes was scheduled to perform just two days later), Olympic Velodrome, Korea National Sports University, a hotel, another music venue called Olympic Hall (which I'm pretty sure was labeled "K-Pop Museum" when I visited), Olympic Museum, an art music, a sculpture park, a rose park and a field of flowers.

Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female sculpture garden  Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female rose
Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female sculpture garden
Seoul Olympic Park flower bed garden South Korea travel trip solo female sculpture garden

From the rose garden, I left the park and headed towards Insa-dong for some of those quick street food bites the tourist sites mentioned, but again, after zig-zagging back and forth between four corners of an intersection, all I found was a couple of carts selling fish cakes, so I walked down Insadong-gil.

I spotted several "dragon's beard" confection sellers, and I ended up stopping at one that advertised pink, green and white candies. Alas, it was just a ploy because all of the dragon's beard candies he sold were white. Dragon's beard candy is sort of like cotton candy stuffed with various ingredients. After purchasing a box of nut-stuffed dragon's beard candies from the man, he showed me how he makes the candies. He first took a block of a frozen sugary substance which I believe he said was made partially of honey, and he molded it with some cornstarch until it became soft to the touch. At that point, he pulled and folded the sugar mass a number of times until strands began to appear. Surprisingly, the entire process took less than five minutes and I captured it on video, which will eventually go into a vlog.

From Insa-dong, I walked to the Cheonggyecheon Stream, where people were having picnic-style lunches along the "banks" of the stream.

Seoul Cheonggyecheon stream South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Cheonggyecheon stream South Korea travel trip solo female art mural
Seoul Cheonggyecheon stream South Korea travel trip solo female

I walked swiftly back to my hostel to wash up and prepare to meet my friend, but not before sampling Tiger Sugar's brown sugar milk tea which, incidentally, is Taiwanese and has three locations in New York City.

After some delays, my friend arrived and we met with her parents for a late lunch/early dinner at the "must eat" Myeongdong Kyoja, which is famous for its hand-cut noodles. They certainly did not disappoint. (Sadly no photos again, but there is video footage!)

My friend had her own itinerary she wanted to stick to, so we headed to the Samsung building in Gangnam, where the Samsung d'light ... showcase? exhibit? lived. We closed down the store and headed next to the famous COEX Mall to marvel at the famous and too oft Instagrammed library.

Seoul COEX mall library South Korea travel trip solo female instagram  Seoul COEX mall library South Korea travel trip solo female instagram

We tried to figure out how the lending process actually works, as we didn't see any checkout machines or kiosks. Does anyone know?

After roaming around the mall for a bit and deciding that we wanted to save our coins, we hopped on a bus towards the Banpo Bridge, which was on my itinerary.

On this 25 minute bus ride along one street, we spotted about 15 Olive Youngs and no fewer than 5 We Works. Business is booming.

I had no idea why Banpo Bridge had made it onto my list of must-sees, to be honest. When we stumbled off the bus, we just followed the small crowd and found ourselves in what may have been considered a seedy area in New York City, but was teeming with young people and lots of couples. A few minutes later, a water show began.

Seoul banpo bridge light show South Korea travel trip solo female floating island  Seoul banpo bridge light show South Korea travel trip solo female floating island

Nearby, the Floating Island with nighttime paddle boaters sailing by.

Seoul banpo bridge light show South Korea travel trip solo female floating island

Then another bus ride back to Myeongdong, where we walked through the "night market" and stopped to sample an egg bread (not that great) before hitting the sack.

A full day awaited us in Suwon ... to be continued.

life

Traveling Solo: Seoul

Monday, October 07, 2019

I returned last week from my first trip to South Korea. Visiting Seoul has been on my bucket list, so when a close friend said she'd be passing through on her way home from Japan and could meet me there for a few days, I grabbed the opportunity.

I'd been a bit anxious about getting around on my own, but mostly about not knowing any Korean. Despite having several Korean friends growing up, my knowledge of the language was limited to names of foods I liked and "anyong haseyo," "ani," "yobo sayo."

The first two-and-a-half days were spent alone, and boy, was it glorious.

I left JFK Airport late Thursday night (okay, okay, early Friday morning - 1:25am to be exact), landed early in Taipei at 4:45am Taipei time (4:45pm the day before in NYC), had a three hour layover, and landed in Seoul at 11am Seoul time (10pm the day before in NYC). I didn't stay well-hydrated during the nearly 15 hour flight between New York and Taipei, and by the time I landed in Seoul, I was suffering.

I did what I had to: picked up my KT pocket wifi, got a T-Money card, and took the lengthy subway ride to Myeong-dong, where I'd booked a bunk bed hostel room. (And let me tell you, the Incheon International Airport was probably one of the most confusing "touristy" spots I came across during my trip. The signs, in my opinion, were not clear and it took me about 30 minutes to figure out where the subway was.)

I wasn't allowed to check in for another 40 minutes, so I dropped off my luggage and trudged to the Myeongdong Tourist Center, then immediately over to the 7-11 across the street for the largest bottle of water I could carry. I sat and people-watched for 20 minutes before heading back to check in at 3pm.

... and then I slept on and off until the next morning.

My first official (conscious) day in South Korea was a Sunday, and I set out early to make up for lost time. I wanted to hit up all the spots my friend wouldn't have any interest in seeing before she arrived the next afternoon.

Gyeongbukgong Palace was up first.

Seoul Gyeongbukgong Palace South Korea travel trip solo female

I'd read in one of the guide books I'd gotten from the Tourist Center about the Samcheongdong area, where modern architecture was interspersed with the old, and I was intrigued, despite it seeming like a hike from the palace. 

When I arrived to the area, it was one literal street, the same one that had been featured in the guide book. However, the walk from the palace to Samcheongdong was one of my favorites during my trip -- it was early on Sunday morning and the streets were quiet, and there were dozens of interesting (closed) boutiques, galleries and cafés that lined the streets. I wished that New York City were more like Samcheongdong.

Seoul Samcheongdong South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Samcheongdong South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Samcheongdong South Korea travel trip solo female

After a long, sweaty and hilly hike, I walked back down to the Bukchon Hanok Village area, where even dental clinics resided in architecture harking back to olden times (or perhaps they really were that old?).

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female
  Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female   Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female

And then I came upon (or sought out) the Jogyesa Temple. The first photo was taken of a park across the street from the actual temple, which was a little set back from the road. Because somehow I was led to the back entrance.

Seoul Jogyesa Temple Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female   Seoul Jogyesa Temple Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Jogyesa Temple Insadong South Korea travel trip solo female

... then it was onto the Hannam-dong neighborhood for some art at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art.

Seoul Leeum Samsung Art Museum Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Leeum Samsung Art Museum Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female   Seoul Leeum Samsung Art Museum Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female
Seoul Leeum Samsung Art Museum Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female   Seoul Leeum Samsung Art Museum Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female

From there, I wandered around Hannam-dong for a bit and visited Space Shinseon, which I had seen on a blog about artsy spaces in Seoul. I was surprised by how small and low-key it was. I had planned on eating at Space Shinseon's café, but I learned quickly that many cafés in Seoul don't actually serve food.
  
Seoul Space Shinseon Hannamdong South Korea travel trip solo female

After Space Shinseon, I got a little lost in Hannam-dong and wound up walking along a highway for a good half-hour before making a loop back and finding myself in Itaewon. I thought about exploring the neighborhood a bit, but I was exhausted and decided to head back to the hostel.

After a short rest, I headed out in the late afternoon to attack Olive Young for Korean skincare favorites, and then explored the Myeongdong market. I was delighted to find that there was street food to be had.

Seoul Myeongdong street food South Korea travel trip solo female

I couldn't pass up a street version of my fave, jajangmyeon. At 4,000 won it wasn't exactly a steal and it didn't taste like the real deal either, but I regret nothing.

Seoul Myeongdong street food South Korea travel trip solo female

Hotteok, a hot, filled, possibly (probably) fried "pancake." I got the "sugar" flavor, which is brown sugar, honey, nuts and cinnamon.

And then I popped into a convenience store and bought a bowl of instant ramen (believe it or not, before arriving, I'd set out to try as many instant ramen flavors as I could) and returned to my hostel, knowing my feet would not hold out for another dinner excursion later that night.

That was just my first full day in Seoul. More to come!

beauty

Review: Korres Hydra-Biome Probiotic Superdose Face Mask

Monday, September 02, 2019

Korres Hydra Biome Probiotic Superdose face mask overnight sleeping mask facial skincare beauty natural organic anti-pollution

The natural skincare brand Korres so kindly reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and asked if they could send me a package containing a preview of their newest launch (out this Thursday, September 5th), the Hydra-Biome Probiotic Superdose Face Mask, and of course, I said YES! Korres is one of the more high-end natural skincare lines I keep going back to; if you've followed me either on YouTube or on this blog, you'll have seen that I've tried a large number of their products in the past five years and I'm a huge fan of their Yoghurt line due to the inclusion of lactic acid.

(By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Korres, being sponsored or compensated by them in any way. They didn't even ask me to review or feature them or the new mask on any of my accounts.)

The Hydra-Biome Probiotic Superdose face mask is an interesting mask. It has an incredibly thick texture and reminds of me a thick night cream or maybe even a cold cream. The description states that one can also use it as a sleeping mask by applying a thin layer to the skin overnight. I tried it both ways and filmed it - the video will go up later this week and I'll return to link it below.

Korres Hydra Biome Probiotic Superdose face mask overnight sleeping mask facial skincare beauty natural organic anti-pollution

Since I received this pre-launch, there wasn't an official description for the product on the internet. From what I could gather from the information sent with the package and on the Sephora website, the Hydra-Biome mask is a super-hydrator (with a 48-hour time release of hydration), has anti-pollution capabilities, calms redness, cools after-sun skin, plumps and helps the skin maintain a balanced complexion. Korres states that this mask contains the highest percentage of yogurt that any of their products has ever contained: 7%.

The instructions:
- Slather a super thick, creamy layer to clean, dry skin and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Rinse and pat dry to relieve and soothe skin while giving it a healthy microbiome-friendly super-dose.
- To use as a sleeping facial, smooth on a thin layer before bedtime to wake up to plump and well-rested skin.

I first time I tried it, I applied the mask to my face which had recently seen a lot of sun and was possibly mildly sunburnt. I had some inexplicable dry patches around my nostrils that I hoped the mask would help banish. It didn't do much to hydrate the dry patches, and I'm not sure I would recommend using this or any lactic acid products on freshly sunburned skin, because the lactic acid in this product as well as the other Korres Yoghurt products tingle. This mask's tingle felt more akin to a mild burn at times.

Which isn't to say I didn't like this product. I appreciate a light tingle to know that the lactic acid is active and probably working. The scent was better than the other Korres Yoghurt products I'd previously tried (which had all smelled like chemical-tinged yogurt). This mask smelled of powdery almond. I felt the mask did leave my skin looking seemingly brighter and slightly plumper, although I wasn't a huge fan of the way it felt as if the mask left some residue on my face (it eventually dried or was absorbed).

I tried the mask again, this time as a leave-on. I didn't leave it on long enough (overnight) to see what the results were like, but I did not like the feel of the mask as a thin layer on my skin in the summer. It pilled and felt heavy and greasy, even for my combo-normal skin. If you sleep with satin pillowcases, I would recommend using another pillowcase if you plan on sleeping with this mask on.

Korres Hydra Biome Probiotic Superdose face mask overnight sleeping mask facial skincare beauty natural organic anti-pollution

Overall, while I have previously loved some of the products in the Korres Yoghurt line, this mask wasn't a huge hit for me. I'm not quite sure what sort of niche this product fills, and the anti-pollution claims are a little confusing/mysterious. My conclusion is that this product would probably be best for someone with dry, sensitive skin who can't handle direct acids or a higher lactic acid content. Otherwise there are better hydrators and better lactic acid products out there - Korres' included - that I think can provide both plumping and hydration at the same time with a better texture.

The Korres Hydra-Biome Probiotic Superdose Face Mask costs $49 for 3.38 fluid ounces - a lot of mask if you're going to use it as an overnight sleeping mask, as the product has a 6 month life.

Korres also sent along a Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser which I LOVE and look forward to using up: it smells faintly of peaches, is foamy without being stripping in the least and leaves my skin feeling clean and soft.

YouTube

What I'm Reading

Instagram