As the year winds down, we all start to look back at the things we did and didn’t do, the places we went and wished we had gone, the things we accomplished and the things we still have left to do.
This year was full of new experiences – I traveled to Los Angeles for the first time and fell in love with California more than I ever imagined I would, took my first solo overseas trip to South Korea, moved out of my parents’ house, and adopted a
I want to take time to talk about three things that didn’t get their own blog post this year.
The decision to go to LA was almost impulsive – one of my favorite Korean pop groups, GOT7, was returning to the U.S for a five city fanmeeting tour. I had already scored tickets for my home city, D.C., but LA is the hometown of GOT7’s eldest member, Mark Tuan, which means it’s always a special show for the group and the fans. I decided to go just a few hours before tickets went on sale.
I’ve always wanted to go to San Diego and San Francisco, but LA has never been a place I particularly wanted to visit. My only image of LA was warm weather – something I could get almost anywhere in SoCal – and Hollywood, which has never interested me. And when others would talk about LA, they were often unimpressed or hated it. Still, I was itching to travel somewhere – anywhere – and GOT7 was the perfect excuse.
In the weeks leading up to my trip, I started wishing I had booked an extra day just to explore – there is so much more to LA than Hollywood. Once I got there, I loved it. I didn’t want to come home. The weather was a perfect 75 degrees, my breakfast at Grand Central Market was delicious, and I couldn’t stop looking up at the impressively tall palm trees in Palisades Park.
The evening before the show, after getting back from Santa Monica, I met up with small group of fellow fans to bar hop around Pasadena, eventually ending the night with my first ever In-N-Out burger.
The next night, I never stopped smiling as I cheered, sang, and laughed along with the soldout crowd at Pasadena Civic Center. The fanmeeting was the perfect ending to tie together one of the best weekends of 2017, and I can’t wait to go back!
My 3:25am Train Home from NYC
Whenever I’m in NYC it’s almost always for one reason – a concert. This time, it was DAY6, a talented band from the same company as GOT7. On the day of the show, I went to work, then took a late-morning train up to NYC, which was humid, rainy, and generally unpleasant when I arrived. Still, at least it wasn’t cold – I counted my blessings.
Once the show was over and I finished the hi-touch event, it was only 10pm – I had 5 ½ hours to kill before my 3:25am train. Good thing NYC is the city that never sleeps, right?
I thought I would take some advantage of my time, and walked to Grand Central Station since I’ve never been. With the late hour and closed down shops, there wasn’t much to do but take a few photos and stare up at the impressive ceiling, but at least I finally saw it.
By then, my feet were letting me know exactly how they felt about walking around in barely-broken-in-boots with two-inch heels all day, so I headed to Penn Station, where I prepared for a long, boring, 4 hours.
I sat in the Amtrak waiting area, headphones in, ready to wait out the night, when the older woman sitting across from me came over and introduced herself like this: “Please don’t be scared, I just have a question.”
She wanted to know what song was playing over the station speakers. It was a classical piece, the typical kind of thing you hear as background music and never pay much attention to, and yet she kept telling me how beautiful it was. She knew it was from a movie, and couldn’t quite put her finger on it. The song changed, and she told me, “This is from…!”
We talked about the music, her life coming from Peru to the States, her life in the States, and listened to advice that reminded me of my own grandmother. She told me she was taking a train that left from Grand Central, but because it was early in the morning, she would spend the night in Penn Station, where it was safe (she told me hotels were too expensive, as she was a bit poor). She talked about God, and how she couldn’t understand why people looked at her like she was the crazy one when she would show concern for strangers who seemed to be in some kind of distress. I must have listened to so many different stories that night.
Maybe she was a bit off – I will never know – but it was certainly one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had all year.
To my luck, the next three hours flew by as I spent the time reminiscing about the show, watching videos, and talking about Kpop with a fan I know from previous shows, and another who is an even bigger GOT7 than I am!
Rain, Cafes, and More Rain in Seoul
Probably my biggest regret this year is letting the rain and chilly weather get to me in Seoul. At the end of my trip, I was already tired from the sightseeing I had been doing for nearly two weeks, and the rain made it even harder to gather the energy and do it for another three days.
With the bad weather and my own exhaustion, my time in Seoul was mostly defined by how much times I spent in cafes.
The day I arrived was one of the best – the weather was nice, it was sunny, and I was excited to be in Seoul. Before leaving Hongdae for N Seoul Tower, I stopped at Cafe A:Re for some coffee and something sweet. It was a cute place, and the tiramisu I ordered was unbelievable. It was my favorite cafe right after JHolic and Meerkat Friends!
21 Hongik-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there
Take subway line 2 to Hongkik University Station and get out at exit 9. Turn immediately left onto Yanghwa-ro, then right onto Hongik-ro 6-gil. The cafe will be on your right. It’s a little hard to see, as the shop is in a basement and tucked between two other shops.
The walk up to N Seoul Tower might be a little strenuous for some because it’s a long walk uphill (you can also take the tram instead). Still, you can find places to eat, some souvenir shops, and go up to the observation deck for 10,000 won (~$10 USD) for a spectacular view of Seoul.
As a fan of Kim Jaejoong, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his spacious cafe was my favorite. The modern decor with the light wood, and grey and yellow color scheme made the place bright and clean. You can tell Jaejoong put a lot of thought into making his cafe a place anyone could enjoy a cup of coffee, not just a place for fans. And the coffee was great!
627 Bongeunsa-ro, Samseong 1-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
How to get there
There’s two ways you can get there:
Option 1: Take line 9 to Bongeunsa Station. Come out exit 4 and walk straight until you see the cafe on your left.
Option 2: Take line 2 to Samseong Station. Come out exit 7, and walk straight down Yeongdongdae-ro until you get to Bongeunsa-ro. Cross the street and turn right. The cafe will be on your left.
While Meerkat Friends was one of my favorite themed cafes, I need to mention the reality of places like this – meerkats and other wild animals are not meant to be domesticated. I do struggle with this a little, because by going, I’m supporting this type of business. If you decide to go to a cafe which has more exotic animals (not cats, dogs, rabbits, small reptiles, etc.), there is a moral/ethical dilemma you might need to contend with.
That said, whenever I’ve been to these types of cafes, it’s obvious the owners and staff are knowledgeable, and take very good care of the animals. Their well-being is always the number one priority. The animals are always a healthy weight, well-groomed, and there are very clear rules for interacting with them to keep both you and the animals safe and comfortable.
19-12 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul; 3rd floor
How to get there
Take Line 2 to Hongik University Station and come out exit 9. Walk until you get to the major intersection at Hongkik-ro, then cross the street and turn left. Walk to Wausan-ro, then make a slight right onto Wausan-ro 21-gil (it’s a kind of narrow street), then left again (staying on Wausan-ro 21-gil). You’ll see it on the right.
The rain definitely killed a lot of my mood during this trip, and I wish I hadn’t let it. There are so many places I missed out seeing and eating at because I simply didn’t want to be out in the bad weather. The silver lining to it all is I now have an excuse to return to Seoul and truly experience it.
Other Seoul Cafes
A dog cafe located in Hongdae. You have the choice of spending time in the small or large dog areas. The juice was fantastic and really more of a smoothie.
394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul; Je-il Building, rear entrance, 1st floor.
How to get there
Take line 2 to Hapjeong Station, and come out of either exit 3 or 4. If you take exit 3, make an immediate left and walk down the street. It’s on the corner across from the 7-11 on the first floor of a black building. If you take exit 4, go right and also look for it on the corner across from 7-11.
A raccoon cafe located in Hyehwa. It’s best to go after dark, as raccoons are nocturnal and generally not active during the day.
How to get there
Take subway line number 4 to Hyehwa Station and get out at the exit 4.Go left until you can see the Etude House. Next to Etude House’s door is an elevator. Kkukkune is located on fifth floor.
Thanks Nature Cafe
A sheep cafe located in Hongdae.
486 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there
Take line 2 to Hongik University Station and come out exit 9. Walk straight then take a left on Hongik-ro. The cafe is on the left, down a set of stairs.