A trip to Nagoya is never complete without trying all of the delicious food available. This aesthetic food adventure takes us to many dessert cafes and restaurants that have just re-opened after the emergency state ended. We also drank at Meijo Park near Nagoya Castle which is one of the chillest spots I’ve found in this city with awesome scenery. All of the places I visited this weekend have a lovely atmosphere and I can’t recommend them enough!
I’ll be expanding this list as I find more places, but feel free to suggest any you recommend in the comments! Please see Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 for reference.
Around the time that Animal Crossing for Switch was released, these guys popped up in my recommended desserts feed on Instagram. Though I don’t play the game because I value my free time, who could pass up the chance to try tanuki cupcakes!? Holland is western-themed desserts and confectionery shop near Kanayama Station in Nagoya. They sell individual sweets and customized cakes for a pretty affordable price. The tanuki cupcakes come in strawberry and chocolate flavors. They had both a wafer and cake-like texture underneath the frosting. Honestly they hit the spot after traveling over 2 hours here from Tokyo. I am excited to see what other fun cupcakes they design in the future!
Cafe One in central Sakae delivers breakfast of the champions with it’s signature nekopan. Or should I say breakfast of the champio-nyans? Whatever you want to call it, it’s mouthwatering and delicious. I had ice cream milk coffee that was decorated to look like a cat with a mustache and a cookie tail on the side. I instantly felt energized after consuming all that ice cream and sugar. My boyfriend ordered neko melonpan that had no face but was thicc and tasted amazing. I ordered the nekopan with almond eyes that was covered in peanut butter and marshmallow toppings with chocolate whiskers. Honestly is was a bit overwhelming but was also some of the best bread I had ever tasted. There are many flavors of nekopan available here so I’d love to try more in the future!
Dean & Deluca Deli
After consuming all of that sugar, we walked around for a while and decided we should eat something healthy for lunch. Not too far from Cafe One is the Dean & Deluca Deli where you can order sandwiches and fresh salad for a healthy meal. They offer juices, desserts, and takeout options here as well. I decided to get the vegetable salad with avocado, grilled pumpkin, potato, lettuce, quinoa, and carrots. It was a good balance to what I ate for breakfast and gave me a lot of energy for the rest of the day. My boyfriend had the chicken sandwich and said it had his stamp of approval too. This place is win-win for both vegetarians and people who like meat because it has a number of options.
Poket is a Hawaiin restaurant that just moved to the bottom floor of ASTIR Hotel in Sakae. They are relatively new but have a really vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. Poke Bowls are the specialty here which you can order with salad or rice as your base. I customized my bowl to include sauteed octopus and vegetables. For dessert, I decided to try their one of a kind “banana soft” which is vanilla ice cream that is carefully placed inside of a fresh banana. The result is extremely photogenic and Instagrammable. Bananas sure have evolved a lot! The drink menu has Japanese drinks, Hawaiin beers, and pineapple sours. I definitely felt like we were in a tropical place even though we are currently in the middle of the rainy season in Japan. I would definitely come back here again to try more variety of of Poke and see what other crazy desserts they come up with!
For once I wasn’t the one that found this restaurant—full credit goes to my boyfriend for taking us here. 杏ZU specializes in vegan Chinese food but has a non-vegan menu too. I decided to ordered the vegetables boiled with yuba tofu (vegan option). I also tried some Chinese wine on the rocks. It was bitter but tasted just right paired with the food. My boyfriend got a chicken dish that was served in a delicious rice cracker. What makes this place stand out from other Chinese restaurants is the seasoning they use in their cooking. I tasted a hint of lemon in mine and it was very healthy because they didn’t use any butter in it. I would really like to come back here and try some shrimp dishes in the future. This place will be on my watch list.
Situated next to Nagoya Castle, Meijo Park is one of the ideal places to drink or have a picnic. Unlike other parks and gardens in Nagoya, it doesn’t have an entrance fee and is open 24 hours. It feels like something out of an RPG because it has a giant windmill that looks like it holds secrets, a sundial that could possibly turn back time, and comically huge sunflowers everywhere. Not to mention the adorable stray cats. You could definitely use this place in a game map. Anyway, my boyfriend and I spent 2 hours drinking here before Final Fantasy VII trivia night at Critical Hit. We also tried the new Blue Hawaii donut at Lyrical Coffee Donut which was better than their matcha series. I later came back here to watch the sunset and see the moon before I left for Tokyo. This place has a wonderful aesthetic because all of the trees block the city lights.
That’s all the aesthetic food finds for this week. I’ll have more to write about when I visit Nagoya again later this month! Thank you for reading.
The worst days will end. The best days will end. Remember that. From 6/25/2020 – 7/12/2020, there is a special MOTHER exhibit featuring works by Americart and 35 different manga artists on the 8th floor of the Shibuya Parco building. As an avid fan of the series, I had to go the very first day the gallery opened up. It’s completely free so if you live in Tokyo you have no excuse not to check it out. You won’t be disappointed!
Though I wasn’t initially familiar with the artists, the artwork on display has a tasteful style that fits the theme of the games. You will see familiar characters from all of the series and be lost in nostalgia as familiar music from the series is plays overhead. Seeing this really made me want to go back and play all of the games again:
There are photo spots where you can pose with Ness’s hat and various characters from the series. I love how the hand sanitizer was creatively incorporated into this exhibit too. It definitely gave me a laugh! There is a monitor where you can see the speed paint process of Americart’s work too. There was a ton of effort put into this and it really shows:
In addition to the Pollyanna art book and comic anthologies, there are T-shirts, bags, pixel charms, jewelry, and plushies for sale. Unfortunately the giant Mr. Saturn plushies on display are not for sale, but you can purchase a miniature one that comes with a house for 2500 yen. I picked up the Mr. Saturn bag for a mere 600 yen. It has amazing quality and is super stylish. I can’t wait to wear it out! I am so happy I had the chance to experience yet another nostalgic videogame exhibit.
After the emergency state was lifted in Tokyo I decided to pick a quiet day and go shopping in Harajuku with my best friend. I had always passed by the Galaxy Store near the crosswalk but never had gone inside because I thought it was just an average mobile phone store with a cool design. However, one of my online friends had informed me that it had an amazing photo exhibit so I figured that this would be my next shoot location. Little did I know that it actually turned out to be one of the best places to shoot aesthetic photos in Harajuku!
Here are some photos from my latest shoot at Galaxy’s Photo Experience (which is a free space that anyone can use but there may be a queue):
The 1st floor sells Galaxy Phones which seem to be gaining a lot of popularity in Tokyo. I tested one out and they seem to take high quality pictures with their “hands-free” controls. The 2nd floor has a nice cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. The 3rd floor has a museum with all of the older Samsung models leading up to the latest one plus some promo for the now-cancelled 2020 Olympics (they are probably going to have to re-do this floor soon). The 4th floor is where the action is at because it’s the photo experience floor! Here there are 3 main areas you can take photos with—one simulates being in a galaxy with flashy lights, one you can draw shapes with light pens and have it recorded, and the last involves mirrors and terminal screens (my personal favorite).
When you enter the last section of the photo experience floor, you are asked to type your Instagram handle into a terminal. Upon entering the room in front of it, all of your latest posts will be displayed in an array of mirrors and a robotic voice will read your most-used hashtags. Mine were “aesthetic” and “Nagoya” (to no one’s surprise). The posts will be scrambled and magnify at random so it creates a dramatic backdrop with the dark lighting. It felt absolutely surreal to be here, and also slightly nostalgic. This must be exactly what being in “The Wired” feels like:
In addition to the latest phones and this futuristic photo exhibit, the Galaxy Cafe on the 2nd floor has some delicious over-sized “DUMBO” donuts and coffee. I couldn’t resist ordering the sparkly blue one and sharing it with my friend. It was glazed to perfection and also had tiny chocolate pearls on top of it:
I am happy to see that cafes and museums in Tokyo are gradually opening and are enforcing proper safety protocol. All attendees are required to use hand sanitizer and wear a mask when entering as well as having their temperature checked by the staff. We fortunately came during the time of day when the store wasn’t very crowded so we felt safe here.
In my next article, I will be writing about a new MOTHER/Earthbound exhibit coming to Shibuya. Please stay tuned for it!
〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−8−9 宝エステートビルディング
Since I’ve finished my Jeju Island article series, I’m going to write about some of my favorite places to hang out in Seoul next. It’s hard to structure this article because there are literally so many cool areas of the city! My two favorite districts in Seoul are by far Itaewon and Gangnam. Both have extremely different vibes but are perfect for a night out depending on what my mood is. Itaewon is friendliest and most international while Gangnam is the fanciest district is Seoul. Even though I can’t speak Hangul, I never have trouble making friends in this city. Spontaneously getting invited to a bachelor’s party while staying here was one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me in a foreign country. I’ve been to Korea three times and hope to visit again when international travel is possible again.
Without further ado, here are the most fun places that I’ve discovered:
Common Ground is an urban mall that was built out of containers and is really fun to explore. Unlike other malls, there’s not a huge mob of annoying shoppers here because those type of people usually go to the fancier malls in the center of the city. Common Ground features small designer stores and also has restaurants and live music. A lot of stores here import brands too. No matter what your price range is, you can usually find something that fits your taste here. I actually didn’t buy much but I had fun doing photography with the winter illuminations outside. There was also a statue of an astronaut outside and some replicas of Roman statues inside the main building when I visited. How aesthetic!
While I was walking around here, a Korean student came up to me and interviewed me for a university project. Since I didn’t have a strict itinerary during my first trip, I happily participated. She asked me various questions about my country and also gave me some Korean snacks. Though it was a simple project, I was happy that I could help out. Common Ground is close to many universities so it’s great for socializing and meeting people!
Lotte World is one of the most famous amusement parks in Korea. In fact, it’s the largest indoor theme park in the world—which is why I had to go! It’s located in the massive Lotte Mall that has hundreds of shops and food from all around the world. If you are looking for top tier shopping in Seoul, then this is the place. I came after the start of the new year so the park had a winter theme. Fortunately it wasn’t very crowded and I could ride all of the rides that I wanted! There are carousels, roller coasters, haunted houses, and my personal favorite: The Balloon Ride. You can see the entire indoor park and mall from the top which makes it an amazing experience.
Even though Lotte World is owned by Lotte Co. Ltd., there are actually a lot of parallels between it and Disney Land. For example, the outside of Lotte World resembles the Disney World Castle. It also has a beautiful lake that you can view by walking across a bridge that leads to the artificially created “Magic Island” which is a lot like Disney Sea. Despite these similarities, the attractions are quite different and the entrance to Lotte World is considerably cheaper. If you like one park, you’ll probably like the other too.
I would recommend checking out Lotte World as opposed to other amusement parks because you can come here in any kind of weather thanks to the indoor park area.
Entrance Fee: 32$ for adults (cheaper than most amusement parks in Japan so it’s overall worth it)
The Jogyesa Temple in Insadong, Seoul is probably my favorite temple of all time in Korea. I first came here during the Lotus Festival in April and many bright hand-crafted paper ornaments were hung around the entire complex. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! Jogyesa is actually the center of Buddhism in Korea and many rituals and ceremonies are held here. There are private prayer rooms as well as places that you can make public offerings. The Chinese Scholar Tree was planted on the temple grounds because it is said to convert negative energy into positive energy and happiness. Though I’m not particularly religious, I definitely felt in high spirits here. Please check this place out if you ever get the chance. The monks are very friendly and welcoming.
I enjoyed seeing the English pack of M&Ms being used as an offering when I went:
Entrance Fee: Free
Myeongdong is essentially the Shibuya/Harajuku of Seoul. You can come here at any time of day and find something fun to do. It has street food, hilarious fashion (“say no to kids, drugs”), recreational parks, and cafes galore. The street and night markets have knock-off Gucci and Supreme which you can score for a low price. I enjoyed eating octopus and drinking sochu while I walked through all the streets and alleyways.
Some of my favorite places I found around Myeongdong Station were:
Artbox – An adorable mall with art supplies, cosmetics, and accessories. It reminded me of the LINE Friends store in Japan but had way more variety.
Stylenada 3CE – A pool-themed shopping mall and cafe with beautiful pink decor. It has amazing desserts!
Bbongsin – An amazing restaurant with cold noodles and calzones. Some of the best Korean food I’ve ever had!
Milky Bee – An ice cream shop with flower-shape gelato.
Myeongdong has bars that stay open late, but not much of a club scene. Continue reading to see my recommendations for clubs:
Ever since the song “Gangnam Style” became a hit song, I feel like this district doesn’t really need an introduction but I’ll give it a go anyway. Gangnam is the most upscale district in Seoul but you can enjoy the nightlife here with almost any budget. In addition to some of the most reputable clubs, it has secluded parks you can walk through by the river side and amazing cafes. Gangnam itself is pretty spread out so people don’t normally drink in the streets like in Itaewon. It’s classy and has a club area as well as a quiet upscale residential district as well.
My first memory of Gangnam was meeting up with some of my old college friends here and going to Octagon, where we got invited to VIP tables and drank champagne. If you’re a girl then it’s really easy to meet people that will buy you drinks here. The crowds and sound system are pretty insane too. I honestly got too lit my first time here so I’d really like to come back and just focus on the music next time.
Last year I decided to get my eye bags removed at JK Plastic in Gangnam. I had sunken eyelids that were caused by genetics so the veins under my skin would show and create permanent eye bags. I always looked tired and wanted to fix the issue so I opted for eye surgery. I chose JK Plastic because they are one of the highest-rated clinics in Korea and speak English. It took about a week of downtime in Korea and then six weeks of recovery at home, but the skin beneath my eyelids has been fully restored now! When I woke up from surgery I nearly cried because they did such an amazing job and I could already see the results despite having a swollen face. During my down time I played visual novels and also watched a lot of anime. It wasn’t so bad—just make sure you have enough time off to take care of yourself!
Plastic surgeons in Korea are the best in the world. The advantage of going here is that if you’re a tourist you can get a tax refund from the surgery when you go to the airport. I would not recommend plastic surgery in Japan because my friends have said the surgeons here are not as experienced or friendly. I would recommend doing research, scheduling an online consultation with a clinic you like, and seeing what options fit you best. I may write a full article on this at a later time!
Itaewon is my favorite place to start my night out in Seoul. I have so many fond memories here. It caters to the late-night international crowd and has small, condensed streets as well as beautiful murals that decorate the walls. You can sit at an outdoor bar or go drinking in the street and easily meet people (both tourists and Korean nationals). You can find pretty much any type of restaurant or dessert shop here too. It has the feel of a college town but is much more upscale and classy. Usually I spend my first night going to various clubs and bars then wake up and soak in Itaewon Land Spa.
My favorite club here is called Cakeshop because it features a lot of independent producers from both Seoul and other countries plus it has a great vibe. It originally caught my eye because Carpainter did a set here in 2015 (unfortunately I was in America at the time or I would have gone). The club is small enough with one DJ booth and bar that it’s easy to converse with people and enjoy the music. I have made a number of friends here that I still stay in touch with. The entry fee usually isn’t more than $25.
Besides Cakeshop, Fountain is a great place to check out. The first floor is huge dance floor that’s always usually packed and the upper floors have tables and arcades for bigger groups. The music here is usually western EDM which disinterests me, but the atmosphere of the club is impressive. I have never paid any entrance fee when I have gone in. What I remember of Club Awesome was awesome too!
Next time I’m here I really want to check out a club called Pumpkin. If it’s actually Halloween-themed like its outer decor implies then I’m in.
Other Interesting Places:
Hongdae – Hongdae is a popular spot for college students and those who love K-pop music clubs. I came here to visit the ADERerror store and also to do some shopping. I didn’t like it as much as Itaewon or Gangnam due to my music taste, but I highly recommend you spend a night exploring here and see what you think.
I found an amazing “Magical Item Shop” called Creamy DD with tons of Sailor Moon and other magical girl accessories here. It’s easy to spot the sign if you walk down the main road:
Ihwa Mural Village – Since I went to Busan and saw Gamcheon I skipped this village, but if you are looking for beautiful murals and art to see then please check this place out! I want to go here in the future.
Secret Garden – A scenic area around Changdeokgung Palace that I recommend checking out if you have the time. It is one of the most beautiful gardens in Seoul!
Nami Island – A scenic island near Seoul where many K-dramas are filmed. Click the link to read my full article on it!
Places to Stay
As a backpacker, I favor cheap hostels but the majority of accommodations in Korea are less expensive than in Japan. You can likely find a nice hotel for $45 USD or less too.
Here are some of the places that I stayed at and enjoyed in Korea. I booked them close in proximity to the clubs I was interested in checking out:
Guesthouse Yacht (Itaewon) – A very inexpensive apartment-style dorm in the heart of Itaewon. This is my go-to place if I’m spending the night there because it’s safe, quiet, and conveniently located.
Kimchee Guesthouse (Gangnam) – A guest house near Gangnam City Office that has private and dorm rooms. I stayed here during my eye surgery recovery period and it was perfect because my room had a shower inside it. This is the cheapest you will get in the fanciest part of the city, I assure you.
Neo Seoul Guesthouse – I wanted to try staying in Hongdae for a night, so I chose this place because of the cool name. It was cheap and I could easily access the airport limousine the next day so I recommend it for its convenience (Itaewon and Gangnam are a bit further away).
This will be the last article about Korea that I write until my next trip! Since I live in Japan, I can sometimes find cheap round-trip flights for under $150 so I come here usually once a year for a week long vacation. Usually new restaurants and venues open, plus cosmetics and beauty clinics are really cheap here so I always have something to look forward to. Until next time, Seoul!
Apr. 27th, 2018 – I’ll never forget the day when I was strolling through Itaewon on my way to the club when I ran into a group of Korean guys who were pouring beer in plastic cups and passing them out to random people on the street. Not wanting to be rude, I happily accepted one and drank it with them. I noticed one of the guys in their group was dressed up in body armor made of cardboard and duct tape while the others playfully gave him commands. Since this was only my 2nd time in Korea, I wasn’t sure if this was something normal or a special occasion. Fortunately some of guys spoke English and informed me what was going on—this was a bachelor’s party. A very casual and spontaneous one, apparently. And I was invited! Lucky me~
Since I left America when I was 21 years old, I never had the chance to partake in any wedding parties since I wasn’t old enough to drink. Not many of my friends were mature enough to get married at that age either. Who would have guessed that my first time attending one would be in Korea with a bunch of guys I just met? I had booked a tour to the DMZ the next day, but I figured I could drink and relax for a few hours since it was my first night in town. And this would historically be a night to remember, because the very next day North Korea and South Korea agree to end war. But we wouldn’t know that until the next day…
After hanging out on the street and making conversation with random people, we moved to Awesome Lounge where they had reserved a VIP table. I had been to a number of bars and clubs in Itaewon before, but this was my very first time here. Everyone was extremely friendly and I was honestly having the time of my life. Perhaps too much fun. I remember drinking 1/3 of a bottle of champagne, pole dancing near the side of the VIP area, and losing my pocket wifi out of my purse which later cost me $60. Fortunately I woke up with my wallet and passport the next day though. The club was loud and dark enough so it was the perfect atmosphere to get belligerently intoxicated. South Korea is a very safe country so you really don’t have to worry as long as you can make it back to your hotel. I vaguely remember us going somewhere to get sashimi after the club. It was one of the largest sashimi platters that I had ever seen in my life and man it was amazing! I was happy that I took a picture so I could remember it.
After we finished eating it was near 2am so we happily parted ways. I made sure to thank them for the most lit night in Itaewon ever and wish the cardboard armor guy good luck in his future marriage. If this was just the bachelor’s party, I could only imagine how crazy the wedding party was going to be.
I drunkenly walked back to my hostel called Guesthouse Yacht. Not only is it insanely cheap, but it’s on a hill just over the main street with all the bars and pubs. The perfection combo.
Apr. 28th, 2018 – I woke up hungover but in an extremely elevated mood. I couldn’t believe how crazy my first night out had started. I was missing my pocket wifi, but I figured all the crazy memories from the previous night were more than worth it. I had successfully attended my first bachelor’s party (even though I was a girl) and lived to tell the tale. How often do you get to live out experiences like that?
Anyway, it was time to resurface to reality. I had booked a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Klook for $45. This tour will take you to the borders of North and South Korea, and you can climb through a tunnel to technically be inside the North Korean border. You can only come here if you book a tour as entry into North Korea is extremely restricted and there is a checkpoint in Paju. However, the tours are completely safe and you will be with an English-speaking guide at all times. Learning about the Cold War and seeing the Four Infiltration Tunnels (that were dug between the borders for a surprise attack) is a rare experience and I was grateful I got the chance to climb through them. The views of North Korea that you can see from the DMZ border are surreal.
My tour group was one of the first to visit after peace was made between the North and the South. I had only figured this out shortly before my tour bus came to pick me up as the news was announced early this day. I had planned this trip during my Golden Week vacation a month in advance and had no idea this was happening. Everyone was in extremely high spirits and it was a great time to be in Korea!
Here are some pictures I took of North Korea. It was neat to see it with my own eyes. With all of the stories of it circulating online you often don’t know what to believe. It looks like there’s an extremely forested area nearby from the border. You wouldn’t even guess that it was North Korea at first:
North Korea is apparently famous for its chocolate soybean candy. Or at least that’s what they want you to think. I tried some at the souvenir shop and it wasn’t my favorite chocolate, but it definitely had a unique taste to it:
Next we visited Dorasan Station (which leads to the capital of North Korea):
Dorasan Station connects the railway between North and South Korea. It is located within the DMZ and has been out of use for years, but serves as a symbol of hope that unification may be possible in the future. You can walk inside it and take pictures, but even though peace was made it will be quite a while before civilians can use it. Apparently goods are transferred through it now, but limited information in English is available.
I was very moved by this tour. Though North Korea has a dangerous reputation, I don’t want to believe that all of its people are bad. I met one Australian girl on my Herb Island Tour later who said she had volunteered there. I can’t remember the details of what she did, but she spent about a week there learning about the culture. Since I am American, I know it is dangerous (and likely still impossible) for me to go, but when it becomes more safe I would really like to do a volunteer program there. I hope in the future it continues to open its borders, as South Korea is a wonderful country that I hold dearly in my heart.
After spending an amazing 5 days on Jeju Island, I decided to fly back to Seoul and explore the places that I had overlooked on my first trip to Korea back in 2018. Pocheon Art Valley and Herb Island caught my eye because they seemed up my alley. Both places were slightly outside of the city and had a lot of fantastic nature to see with other quirky exhibits. Every day tour that I’ve taken outside of Seoul has been well-organized and was easier than taking public transportation, so I booked a package that included both of them and strawberry picking for around $60 USD on Klook. The tour has amazing ratings and gives you enough time to explore both places. Entrance fees are included as well so it saves you both time and money.
Pocehon Art Valley
I started off my tour by completely going to the wrong station to get picked up my by tour guide. That’s what happens when you’re jetlagged, can’t read Hangul, and are just ignorant in general from all the traveling you do abroad. Fortunately I called Klook and my guide waited for me because our tour was only about 5 people. I apologized to everyone and we made our way to the strawberry farm in a small van. It was nice being in the Korean countryside. The people on the tour were all in their twenties so it was easy to make friends with them. I picked a ton of strawberries because I was starving. After our baskets were full, we made our way to the art valley!
Pocheon Art Valley is a garnite quarry and geopark that has been transformed into a creative art valley. In addition to stunning natural scenery you will see sculptures, planted flora, and even live concerts here. There are arts and crafts workshops you can participate in as well. I mostly came here for the exploration and aesthetic art aspect. After our tour guide finished his explanation, we all set off in our own direction. You can choose to ride the monorail or hike up the valley on your own (it doesn’t take that much time). I hiked around the valley and saw many amazing sights! You can see the silhouettes of the mountains once you get near the summit of the climbing area. This was much easier than climbing Mt. Hallasan like I did the week before. I had so much fun taking pictures here and can see why so many Korean dramas are filmed here.
After about 90 minutes, we met back at the van and drove to Herb Island.
Herb Island is perhaps one of the funniest memes I’ve come across in Korea (at least I thought it was very amusing). First of all, it’s not actually an island━it’s a Christmas-themed amusement park with hundreds of Mediterranean herbs planted around it. Plus it has a mini-zoo, soap-crafting workshop, and lavender ice cream which I highly recommend trying. Everywhere you look there’s strange visuals. I loved seeing the jellyfish and heart illuminations alongside the statues of Santa. Walking through the gardens and the sea of Christmas lights in the summer was surreal. The bakery with the herb cookies was also amazing. This is my favorite amusement park in Korea because it’s just so random:
When you get through the sea of lights, you’ll come across a pen with miniature donkeys. As if this “island” couldn’t get weird enough:
If I ever come back here, I swear to god I am crafting some herb soap. I’ll also buy some more herb cookies for my friends as souvenirs. Keep on staying weird, South Korea!
Overall I had a pleasant experience on this tour. The traffic was heavy due to a public holiday I wasn’t aware so we were late coming back, but that was also my fault for initially being late to the tour. I would like to re-visit Pocheon when I come back to Korea in the future. I hope more people decide to come here because it’s the perfect day trip from Seoul!
After exploring the east and west side of Jeju Island and climbing Mt. Hallasan, I decided to spend my final day on the island relaxing and seeing some of the places that most tours don’t cover (such as the sex museum and private beaches). Since I don’t have an international license, I had my hostel help book me a private taxi driver. The average cost of private taxi drivers in Jeju is about $150 USD per day but hiring one is much easier than trying to use the local buses. The duration of the taxi session is around 9 hours and you can easily see all of the things you want to see without hassle. Hilariously, all the English-speaking drivers were booked already due to high demand but I was able to book a Japanese one. Without further hesitation I set off for my fifth and final day on the island and hoped for the best! Fortunately the weather was on my side.
See Iho Tewoo Beach & Gwakji Beach
Jeju has around eight popular swimming beaches in total, but I chose to travel to the two most photogenic ones. Iho Tewoo Beach is famous for its two horse-shaped lighthouses. I wanted to see them in person so this was the very first destination I chose! Unfortunately it was bit too cold to go swimming, but I just liked being on an empty and relaxing beach. Apparently this beach is extremely popular during the summer because you can go for boat rides here, but during late April when I went it was extremely peaceful and quiet. Just what I wanted after all of the exhausting hiking that I did!
I picked up some amazing octopus at a nearby restaurant here. Raw Korean octopus tastes amazing:
After I had my fill, I decided to head to Gwakji Beach which is much livelier because there are a lot of resorts around it. None of the resorts on Jeju are particularly fancy, but the cafes sure are. I decided to try Mônsant which is owned by G-DRAGON purely because of its flawless architectural design. You can see the ocean through the panes of glass while sipping on delicious coffee. I ordered a strawberry smoothie and couldn’t believe the view that I was seeing:
I tried to go swimming here, but the beach shore was a bit rocky so I was reluctant. Jeju’s beaches are more designed for soaking up the atmosphere rather than actually getting soaked. I didn’t mind though, because Gwakji Beach definitely had a nice vibe. In addition to posh cafes there were squids being sun-dried and local food stalls around. I appreciated the diversity of food here.
One hilarious and slightly creepy trend here I saw was having photos of couples and babies printed onto lattes. I’m usually quite adventurous when it comes to food, but I don’t know if I’d have the courage to drink myself… This is just too realistic:
Nexon Computer Museum
The next stop was my favorite museum of all time in Korea: The Nexon Computer Museum. Nexon is the company responsible for creating Maple Story and the longest running commercial graphic MMO in the world: Baram, also known as Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. I was really surprised to see that a modest company in Korea had this award; which makes me think that Nexon is seriously underrated so naturally I wanted to learn more.
Ah yes, the infamous Sex Museum of Korea. I’ll admit I was a bit embarrassed coming here by myself, but I was on vacation so I figured why the hell not? Jeju Loveland is an art museum of erotic outdoor sculptures and has an indoor collection of various adult toys. What’s good is that it promotes a safe approach to sex and only admits entry to adults (honestly I’ve seen enough pedophilia in Japan bookstores and this was a much classier attraction). “Various romantic and sexual art works are waiting for you.” the official website says. I liked the ambiguity of the upside-down sculptures submerged in water… But I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. Definitely see it if it fancies you!
Entrance Fee: $9 USD (not bad)
Jeju Horse Park
Before having my driver drop me off at the airport so I could take my flight back to Seoul, I decided to make one more stop at Jeju Horse Park. I was wearing the most extra outfit because I was shooting pictures on the beach just before, but once again I figured why not! I was on vacation and I wanted to ride a horse one last time. This was the perfect way to end my Jeju Chronicles. I had successfully accomplished everything that I had planned so this was yet another perfect trip to commemorate. The park has a really laidback approach and you can choose multiple routes around the mountains and seaside. I couldn’t use my camera because I was riding, but I had an amazing time! There was a guide who was keeping close watch on me so I felt safe at all times. Horseback riding is a great way to see Jeju Island and is relatively cheap so you should try it at least once while you’re here.
Entrance Fee: $10-$20 USD depending on how long you go.
As this article implies, I had a phenomenal time on Jeju Island and would recommend it to all my friends. There were a few issues with the language barrier here and there, but island people are some of the friendliest people that you will ever meet. I really treasured all of my time here. I was also able to speak Japanese in a few instances and find my way around. Google Maps aren’t always reliable in South Korea so I would do your research on what attractions you want to see before coming here. That’s it really. Once you arrive at Jeju, you’ll find that the island is small enough that you can easily navigate and fit in all the activities you want. Jeju is by far the most beautiful place in South Korea and you should definitely give it a chance because it has activities for everyone!
Over the weekend I decided to re-visit Gifu Prefecture and see if it’s famous water lily pond in Seki was worth the hype. This originally nameless pond has been nicknamed “Monet’s Pond” (モネの池) by the locals because it closely resembles the Water Lilies art series painted by Claude Monet in the late 1800s. Depending on the season and the weather, the scenery of the pond can vastly change. Some online reviews have said that Monet’s Pond is a vibrant place that is a spitting image of the artwork, while others have dismissed it for appearing as murky and overrated. It’s somewhat humorous to see the variety of scrutiny this place gets (both in English and Japanese).
My favorite review comes from “Kevin B” on Google:
“It is nice, but professional photograph[s] ruined it for me. My expectations were too high, don’t trust the pictures on the Internet.” – Kevin B
This could be true of any place, anywhere—don’t trust the pictures on the internet. Kevin B’s review implies if you set your expectations too high, you will be undoubtedly disappointed. Especially since the pond is located in a considerably remote location with infrequent transportation. But as an adventurer, reading that description just made me want to travel here even more so I could see it for myself.
Fortunately I was not disappointed because the photos I captured look complementary to the artwork:
Fun Fact: I didn’t actually look at any of the Water Lilies paintings until after I went to the pond because I didn’t want my expectations to be warped. I only looked at them for reference in order to accurately write this article.
Here is a gallery of photos that I took. The pond is quite small in size, but depending on where you stand you can see an entirely different reflection in the water:
I was lucky because I got the chance to see Monet’s Pond in both sunny and cloudy weather in the hour that I was there. During sunny weather the pond perfectly reflects the clouds in the sky giving it that dream-like oil painting aesthetic. During cloudy weather it looks a lot darker, but with the floating water lilies it still appears beautiful. Perhaps in the colder months it looks more bare and devoid of color, thus provoking the negative reviews. Coming in June gave me the perfect experience though. I was extremely satisfied with what I saw.
In this video the Koi look like they’re swimming through the clouds:
If you search for pictures of the pond online, you will see mixed results. Some photos have been purposely edited with filters and textures to look more like the paintings. However, the photos on the Official Gifu Tourism Website look pretty natural. I used both my iPhone’s camera and my GoPro so I could closely compare the detail. I only edited the lighting and shadows slightly in the photos I posted here because the sunlight was already optimal. It is recommended to come in the summer and fall months for the best viewing but the pond is open year-round.
Even if we can’t trust the internet, one thing we all can agree on is that this cheesecake replica of Monet’s Pond is awesome:
Not gonna lie, seeing this cake was another huge inspiration for my journey here. Perhaps Gifu Prefecture will some day replicate this idea and create a cafe with food and souvenirs based on the pond like many other places in Japan. Until then, enjoy this capitalist-free piece of nature.
From Gifu Station take the N83 bus towards ほらどキウイプラザ行き (Horado Kiwi Plaza) and get off at the last stop. I was a bit disappointed to see that there were no kiwis here (this is simply a parking lot on the side of a highway). From the bus stop at the parking lot you will see a small van waiting adjacent to the bus. The van’s time tables are aligned with the local buses so you can take it for free to Monet’s Pond. The bus ride takes about 1.5 hours, and the van ride takes 15 mins, so the total travel time is around 1 hour and 45 mins. Though this is a bit of a journey, the ride only costs 670 yen and the pond has no entrance fee making it one of the cheapest attractions in Gifu.
If you like seeing the country side of Japan and don’t mind riding the bus, then I would recommend this trip to you. Just be sure to watch the weather and get there early so you have enough time to take pictures and return to the station. Besides the pond, there’s really not a lot to do in Seki. There’s a local shrine and a few places to eat, but most of the area is used for farming. After seeing the pond I went to Nagoya to spend time with my friends because there’s much more to do there. This was a great escape from reality though. I was happy to confirm that the pond does indeed resemble the real artwork and is not just a hoax.
If you are interested in seeing more attractions in Gifu Prefecture, please check out my Your Name and Gero Onsen articles!
In my last article I wrote about fully exploring the west side of Jeju Island. This included riding a horse on a volcanic crater, trekking through Cheonjeyoen Falls, going to some hilarious theme parks, and more awesome activities. In this article I will be writing about exploring the east side of the island with the same tour guide: Jeju Day Tour. The East Course runs on odd-numbered days and is the same price as the West Course—roughly $65 USD. The duration of the tour is 9 – 10 hours but includes lunch and plenty of breaks. The tour group was also under 10 people which was great too.
As I mentioned before, the local buses only stop at certain places so having a tour guide for thorough exploration of Jeju is ideal. Especially if you don’t speak any Hangul like me! I was once again very satisfied with the high quality of Jeju Day Tour because it’s run by a local guide named Mr. Ko and his courses stop at the most places on the island. With a heart wistful of adventure, I set off for my 4th day on the island!
Manjanggul Lava Tube
Our very first stop was the Manjanggul Lava Tube which is one of the longest lava tubes in the world and is also a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It was formed when lava flowed towards the sea and has a cave you can explore. The cave only takes a couple of minutes to see, but examining all rock formations and detail inside is very interesting. There are also bat colonies that live in here, but fortunately we didn’t run into any!
Maze Land is a self-explanatory theme park with the world’s longest stone maze that is just over 5km. Look at Jeju, setting those world records! There are three mazes in total you can challenge here—two of them intersect with a combination of stone and hedge walls. Most mazes can be completed in 8 – 24 minutes. This was one of the most relaxing parts of the tour because I was able to walk around the beautiful hedges and listen to music. Parts of it felt more like a large garden than a maze! The most hilarious part was watching Korean children climb the walls and give their friends instructions on how to get out. Fortunately the walls weren’t very steep. I will admit I got lost a few times though!
Seongsan Ilchulbong, also called “Sunrise Peak”, is one of the best lookout points on the island… But of course the day I went it was submerged in fog! The peak was formed by hydro-volcanic eruptions so it has a very unique shape. If you click on the 2nd picture, you can vaguely make out the beautiful coast of Jeju. The climb to the top only takes around 25 mins and you can use the wooden stairs. Fortunately I already had climbed Mt. Hallasan and got clear pictures of the crater lake at the top. If you run into fog during your tour, I would recommend going to Mt. Hallasan by yourself on a sunny day for a better chance!
After eating a delicious Korean buffet lunch, we stopped at another famous lookout point: Seopjikoji. This is located at the end of the eastern shore of the island and is very close to the ocean. According to Visit Korea, “Seopji” is the old name for the area, and “Koji” is Jeju dialect meaning a sudden bump on land. As you walk the road to the shore, you will notice a bumpy hill. It’s has quite a funny shape and is fun to hike over. At this point I didn’t even care about the fog. I bought some cheesy squid bread and relaxed by the ocean. Hearing the waves hit the rocky shore made me feel closer with nature.
Seongeup Folk Village
From 1410 to 1914, Seongeup was a small village that played a big role in the cultural history and development of Jeju Island. The village is located at the foot of Halla Mountain and has since turned into somewhat of an open air museum. Here you can see the huts that people lived in, fortress ruins, stone monuments, and a lot of other interesting things that have made up the history of Jeju. Outside of museums in Seoul, this was the first time I had the chance to see the history of Korea up close.
The last stop was at a train-themed amusement park in the forest called Eco Land! Not going to lie—I was completely exhausted by this point. After 4 action-packed days of hiking and being exposed to an entirely new culture, I could feel my body craving rest. Eco Land was a great place to relax though because you can literally ride the train around five different stations without getting off. Or you can be super active and get off and explore at each station. Within the forest there are multiple gardens, a lake with a cave and various attractions, and also animals you can see! This was the only part of the tour that felt a bit rushed, but it was also likely due to my lack of energy. Even though I was tired, being in the forest was a great way to end this tour.
What another amazing day! I enjoyed this tour almost the same as I did the west side of the island and would recommend it to all my friends that are traveling through Jeju. The East Course seemed to have more nature activities, but that was completely fine by me. Even if you don’t like hiking, you can choose to go horseback riding or try local food at the stops. Jeju is so beautiful and has so much to see that it’s extremely hard to get bored here.
My next article will be the last of the Jeju Cronichles. I will be writing about how I hired a private taxi to go to the few places that weren’t covered by the tour. Though it’s been two years since I’ve been here, this island still is extremely special to me. Thank you for reading.
After successfully climbing Korea’s tallest mountain, I decided to take a bus tour around the west side of the island so I could relax and enjoy some of the quirky attractions of Jeju Island. I booked my tour through Jeju Day Tour because they go to the most places out of all the tour companies and are locally owned. The price for seeing half the island is only $65 USD which is worth it because it’s cheaper than renting a taxi or car. Mr. Ko, who personally organizes the tours and is the main guide, speaks very good English and answered all of my questions about the culture here.
The tour is about 9 – 10 hours but includes lunch and plenty of breaks. Our tour only had about seven people on it which was the just the right amount. The bus came directly to my hostel at dawn so we could get an early start. I couldn’t wait to see how my third day on the island was about to unfold!
Our first stop was the “Mysterious Road” (also known as “Dokkaebi Road”) which was located at the base of a mountain that connects two major highways. It was given this name because things that fall on it seem to roll up the hill rather than down. In other words, the road appears to defy gravity due to an optical illusion of its mountainous surroundings. Since we came on a slightly rainy day, we could see water droplets coming towards us from the top of the hill and it was supernatural. The demon head statue that marked the road also added to the ambiance, and it was only our first stop!
Our next stop was the Cheonjeyoen Falls, which are three of the most beautiful waterfalls in Jeju! The water from the first waterfall divides into the other two making it a beautiful natural occurrence. The water from this park eventually flows into the ocean, which is why people call it “The Pond of the Gods”. It definitely looks like something mythical straight out of a video game. I was grateful to have my guide explain its origin or else I would have overlooked it. These are the best waterfalls to see on the island in my opinion.
Mt. Songak is a little volcano with 99 peaks. This was the second volcano I visited after Mt. Hallasan and was a much easier climb! The summit has the best view of the west side of the island, but unfortunately due to the heavy fog it was difficult to see. The coast and walk to the temple however were breathtaking. Even with the fog I could still clearly make them out. I climbed part of the mountain (which only took a few minutes) then opted to go horseback riding for a small fee. My horse looked similar to Epona so it was totally worth it.
The good thing about Jeju is that the fog usually clears quickly. Since I was here for 5 days and had already climbed the tallest mountain, I was more focused on the experience of hiking rather than taking photos.
Jeju Trickeye Museum
After spending the entire morning submersed in nature, we had a Korean buffet lunch that was included in the tour package and were dropped off at the Jeju Trickeye Museum. At Trickeye museums you can pose with various paintings that are designed to make it look like you are part of the art. I had been to the Trickeye Museum in Seoul the previous year so this was quite similar. However, the Trickeye App that you can download for free on your phone makes photography much more interesting here. My favorite part was the VR pandas that were created with the app. This video I took made it look like they had crawled out of the painting. It was honestly worth the trip.
Soingook Theme Park
I was not expecting to run into Shrek and crew while I was in Korea, but that just goes to show how crazy this island is. At Soingook Theme Park you can can see replicas of famous architecture around the world juxtaposed to characters from famous films in a humorous display. I enjoyed seeing Buddha, Shrek, an Angry Birds plane, and some vaporwave all in the same place. Not to mention a beautiful bridge and lake from god knows where. I bought some knock-off Kit-Kats called “Twin Kicker” at a convenience store here and they tasted pretty good. I’m still trying to process everything I saw here!
Osulloc Tea Museum
Osulloc is the largest tea plantation in Korea and is also a museum with delicious sweets. From Jeju Island, the plants receive the perfect amount of sunlight so they can be processed into high quality tea and shipped around the country. You can freely wander through the plantation and learn about how tea is made. I tried the green tea ice cream and chocolate green tea roll which was amazing! This is one of the best spots to pick up souvenirs on Jeju too. I would say Korean green tea is just as good as Japanese green tea.
Teddy Bear Museum (Teseum)
Because meeting Shrek wasn’t enough, our final stop was the Teddy Bear Museum (also called “Teseum”) where we went on a “Teddy Bear Safari” to meet stuffed bears from all over the world. Not gonna lie, the concept seems childish but this was actually a very fun exhibition. Seeing everything from the anatomy of a teddy bear to their origin made me think back to all the stuffed Beanie Babies I collected as a kid. I did not realize how much of an impact teddy bears had on the world before I came here. Why was this on a sub tropical island in Korea? I have no idea, but it was an interesting concept.
When we got back on the bus, Mr. Ko kindly gave us mini bear keychains as souvenirs from the museum. I still have mine and think back to this trip very fondly.
After a fulfilling day of nature, green tea, and some of the craziest museums in Jeju, I was taken back to my hostel Skywalker around dinner time. I chose this hostel because it was close to Mt. Hallasan Park and the dorms were only around $12 per night. Unfortunately this hostel is now closed, but my other recommendation GreenDay is still open!
This tour was 100% worth it. The amount of things we were able to see in one day was astonishing. We had the perfect balance of nature, museums, and silly tourist attractions (which I never would have went to by myself but I enjoyed them). Basically we saw the entire west part of the island and were free to explore each destination after listening to a brief explanation. You could try to reach these places with a local Jeju bus, but some spots such as the Mysterious Road can only be accessed by car or via tour bus. The amount I paid for this tour was about the same as I paid for my bus tour in Okinawa, Japan, so it was pretty fair. I was happy to have a Jeju local as my guide. If you book a tour with Jeju Day Tour then be sure to say hello to Mr. Ko for me!
In my next article, I will be exploring the east side of the island with the same tour company (they were that good)! The west tour runs on even days and we east tour runs on odd days, so you can easily fit them into your schedule. Thank you for reading!