Jonny Dumpling, You’re a Dumpling To Me

Jonny Dumpling is a sentient dumpling that sells out his unaware brothers and sisters to the maws of humankind. And boy are they delicious! There are three branches of Jonny Dumpling in Itaewon. The first branch often has a line, so I went on an off day to the third branch because I hate lines!

We had two dishes. First we had the #2 – 군만두 – 반달 (Fried Dumplings – Half Moon)

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Heeeeere’s Mandu!

I love these guys. They’re steamed dumplings that are fried on one side. This creates a really nice texture, both soft and crispy. It’s filled with a pork and shrimp stuffing, so if it’s not going to be a good choice if you are vegetarian or kosher.

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Soak up that deliciousness!

The second dish was the #1 – 새우 물만두 (Shrimp steamed dumplings)

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These had the same filling as the Half Moons, but the texture is different. If you like your mandu softer, they’re for you! But also not kosher.

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I’ll have to go back and try some of their other dumplings. Evidently they have some vegetarian options.

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Washed it all down with some Tsingtao.

If you want to visit Jonny Dumpling, you can find it in Itaewon. We went to the third branch at:

Seoul Yongsan-gu
Bogwang-ro 118

It’s on the second floor! Enjoy!

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맛있게 드세요!

Roasted Sparrow – On A Stick

Want a treat from the good ol’ days when kids played outside and killed small animals with stones? Then it sounds like ChamSaeJip is for you!

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These restaurants aren’t particularly common in Korea. In fact, many Koreans seem surprised to find out about these places. But I’ve been told by some older Koreans that grew up in the countryside that they would kill sparrows and toss them into a fire whole to cook and singe off the feathers. Since the Jongno area of Seoul is a haven for older people wishing to reminisce, well, I guess there is a big enough market for sparrows.

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For 10,000 won (about $10) you get two sticks with two roasted sparrows each. Splayed and gutted, but not deboned or beheaded, you can easily eat one sparrow with one bite. They come with gingko seeds, which are quite good.

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So how does it taste? It tastes like chicken. Crunchy chicken! Buy some beer to wash it down and you’ve got yourself a light snack.

If you want to try it for yourself, you can find it across the street from the Doosan We’ve Pavilion. Or you can punch in the address below!

종로구 청진동 43-2

Jongno-gu Cheongjin-dong 43-2

맛있게 드세요!

 

Korean Unification Restaurant – Neungna Babsang

IMG_4665Parallel the sleepless Jongno street is an alley packed with old folks, restaurants filled mostly with said old folk, and the occasional protest graffiti.

IMG_4232Not far from the yellow ribbon, next to a gamjatang house is a fairly unassuming entrance to Neungna Babsang (능라밥상) which I think roughly translates as… silk dining table? A finely laid dining table? Something fancy.

Neungna Babsang (능라밥상)

 

IMG_4670It’s a Korean Unification restaurant. Not quite sure what that means, but they serve some North Korean style food. Some real tasty North Korean food. The dining area feels staged and inauthentic. Don’t let that fool you!

IMG_4676Here are a few of the dishes I’ve tried thus far!

 

Gaeseong Mujjim (개성무찜)

Personality Steamed Radish! 

… I think…

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Oh, wait. So evidently Gaeseong is the name of a North Korean city. So this is a stew made with steamed radish in the style of the Gaeseongites. Those of you who followed the now defunct Sunshine Policy of South Korea, might remember that Gaeseong is the site of a South Korean industrial complex run by South Koreans, operated by North Koreans.

Wether personality or city, this dish is excellent. It’s a little spicy, with a little black pepper, tons of garlic, and a little ginger for a nice kick. Come with a friend or group though, this dish serves a minimum of two.
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Gamja Ogeurang Ddeokguk (감자 오그랑떡국)
Potato Wrinkled-Ricecake Soup

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Ogeuram Ddeokguk is a nice, thick ddeokguk. However, while it has some of the regular ddeokguk ddeok (ricecake), it also has a potato based lumpy/wrinkly ddeok. If you like ddeokguk, try this one out. Oh, right, and this dish is also heavy with garlic and I think a hint of ginger.
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Sogalbi Gukbap (소갈비국밥)
Beef Rib Soup

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Like the other dishes, the sogalbi gukbap here has plenty of good stuff, including the ever present garlic and ginger.

Sul (술)
Booze

Also for sale – booze! North Korean booze to be specific. Booze of various kinds!
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Evidently Dotori Sul is a ‘Well Known Liquor’. I haven’t tried any of these yet myself, but curiosity will eventually get the better of me.

Go North!

If you want to try Neungna Babsang, you can find it here:

Neungna Babsang
Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 197-1
2nd Floor

능라밥상
종로구 낙원동 197-1
2층

A House Fit (for the Portrait of) a King

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If you visit the perfected state, Jeonju, one of the places you are likely to visit is Gyeonggijeon, a palace shrine built for, not a king, but his portrait. More specifically, it was built for King Tae-jo’s portrait, the founder of the late Joseon Dynasty. Tae-jo, not his portrait. His portrait didn’t found anything.

Just wanted to clear that up.

The shrine is basically set up as a palace, complete not only with a throne room (where the painting is hung), but servants quarters, a library and various smaller shrines and monuments and a little bamboo grove! Let’s have a look!

It’s easy to find. It’s just across the street from the Jeonju Cathedral and all the buses and taxis going to the hanok village will drop you off nearby.

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You can see the entrance on the left, right behind that crowd.

Once you enter, you have three choices: You can go left to the servant quarters (sans servants), you can take the middle to the enthroned portrait, or you can go right to adventure!

And a restroom should you need to use it. The only reason I mention it is because I can tell the contractor squeezed in an extra urinal, probably to sell an extra unit.

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Seriously, how are we supposed to use this?

Anyway, head north from the restrooms and we find this little monument.

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Yeah! Giant Turtle! This turtle guards another monument called a taesil. You can see it just behind the turtle.

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What’s a taesil? Well, it holds the umbilical chord of a king. This one belongs to King Yejong. Why is it here? Good question.

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You can find these in various places around Korea, and they’ll generally take the same shape.

Walking on, we come across a little bamboo grove…

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…where almost every stalk has a name or love note carved on it.

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On the left we have Jeon Changmin and on the right we have Saebom (heart) Minsu. How cute.

Past the bamboo stand we come across a library on stilts!

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It’s on stilts to help regulate temperature and protect the library from vermin. Now its not actually a library, but a little gallery showing how the library used to work and the ceremonies involved with the maintenance. The reading would be fairly dry for most moderns as the contents were about the daily lives and records of kings past.

Turning back to the central path, we see the throne room.

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But because this is a shrine, the main path is blocked and you have to walk around the sides. What does that sign say on the main path?

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Literally the path for spirits, or as they so eloquently translated: “Road of God”. Only the spirits are supposed to use this main path as the king enthroned is a painting, a representation of the deceased king.

Along the sides we also see big pots. These are supposed to be filled with water for easy access in case of a fire. They’re pretty much just decorative now.

But what of the king? Where is the king?

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The inner room of the throne room.

 

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There he is, a painted king sitting on his painted throne. The table, now empty, will be filled with food and offerings during ceremonies. It only looks sad and lonely because we aren’t allowed inside. We can only peer in.

The library and throne are painted red for the royalty. But the last part, through this door, is all brown and white, the servants’ prep area.

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In this last area, there are many small buildings with their own purpose. Some are for preparing food of one type or another, another for preparing cloth, etc.

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Of course it was built for much smaller people. It’s easy for us to hit our heads on the beams. Behind me is a well, capped off for safety.

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The backside of one of the servant buildings with a nice view of the Jeonju Cathedral.

It’s a nice little palace to visit if you find your way to Jeonju. The only advice I would have to give is don’t eat the bamboo.

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It’s a little tough.

A Quick Trip to Jeonju (2014)

It’s been a while since Jihye and I traveled around, so in February, while she had a break between school years, we decided to visit Jeonju. Why Jeonju? My number one reason was hanji. Beautiful, beautiful hanji.

That’s mulberry bark paper, the traditional paper used in Korea, for those not in the know.

Oh, and it has some landmarks, history, a touristy hanok village, and is also known for its food. Plenty of reasons if you ask me! Let’s see what’s in Jeonju already!

Jeonju

One can get to Jeonju a number of ways depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend. We decided to take the slow train (Mugunghwa) and ended up here at Jeonju Station! Since Jeonju is all about longing for the past, it makes sense the train station would be reminiscent of traditional architecture.

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Now, if you want to go about and see the sites, you could take almost any of the buses that stop by the station. Or you could just walk. We decided to walk.

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While it was a nice walk, it took us an hour or two to actually get where we wanted to go. But the day was beautiful and we had fun talking, so walking we did! We walked through mostly residential areas and schools, the highlight of which was a wonderful little market. Which we forgot to take any pictures of. Ah well!

After a while we finally started approaching the tourist, er, I mean city center. Coming in from the North, we first stumbled across the Jeonju City Hall.

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I’m a huge fan of this one. Often I dislike hackneyed attempts at merging modern with traditional, but here I feel it works. The base evokes the Pungnammun gate, mirrored above by another more modern squared ‘gate’ which overshadows the traditional gate roof.

We started feeling hungry so we dropped by Waengi Kongnamulgukbap!

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While Jeonju is most famous for its Bibimbap, it is also famous for many other dishes as well. Kongnamulgukbap is one of those. For desert we dropped by one of the oldest bakeries in Korea: PNB! We had to pick up a choco-pie or two.

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No really. We only had one each. The rest we brought back to Seoul. Now for the touristy stuff. We dropped by Pungnammun, the southern gate of old Jeonju. Now it’s surrounded by a small traffic circle.

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There are tourist walks that go through this area, but one of the things that struck me was not a tourist spot, but rather an open area that served as a local park.

IMG_0464Funky sculpture, younguns skateboarding, and if you squint, plenty of old folk sitting, jabbering and enjoying the day. This was a small look at the locals. But soon we were to dive deeper into the tourist zone.

Guarding the tourist zone was a giant nose turtle!

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Gaurding the Way to Taejo-ro

What sites can you see in Jeonju? Well, there’s the Jeonju Cathedral,

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The first cathedral built in Korea. It’s actually called the Jeondong Cathedral, but call it the Jeonju Cathedral and I don’t think anyone will care.

This Romanesque structure is nice on the inside too!

IMG_0561Just across the street was Gyeonggijeon, a national shrine, a complex designed like a palace to enshrine a painting of the founder of the Joseon dynasty, Tae. You might ask why the shrine is here in Jeonju rather than Seoul, the capital. Well I would then answer that Jeonju was his birthplace, thus the shrine belongs there!

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The heart of the complex honoring King Taejo

To my delight, on the palace grounds there was another giant turtle! This one was guarding something else…

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What is that behind the turtle?

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Okay, it’s the Taesil of King Yejong. What’s a taesil? It’s a stone structure that houses an urn which in turn houses King Yejong’s umbilical cord. Oh, right, that was a thing in Korea.

Back to the street we find… Oh my. Oh my.

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WAY too many tourists. I kinda dropped the ball on taking photos at this point. We walked around, enjoyed the sites, went back to Jeonju Cathedral to see their mass and found ourselves hungry.

Well, all the famous places had lines. Crazy lines. One such place was Gilgeoria. It’s famous for its baguette burger.

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Not interested in standing in line for that. We had some spicy pork hocks and ddeokgalbi instead.

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We spent the night at a guest house named Doldamjip. The owner was quite kind and they had a large gathering of college freshmen enjoying their week before their first uni classes.

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But finding it was terrible. If you’re in the vicinity there is a sign by the street implying where it is. But the actual place there was no sign. You would only know it is the proper house if you actually paid attention to the name. See it literally means ‘stone wall house’. And low and behold, it was the only residence on that street walled off with rough stone.

Ah, Jeonju, we hardly spent any time. We didn’t get to see even a third of what we wanted, but it was a nice relaxing walking sort of day and trip. Too bad I didn’t get to my hanji. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date once I return!

Engram – Stumbling Across Jeong Ui-Ji

Everyday, as we walk down the streets and live our lives, we form and reinforce memories of time, place, and things. A familiar scent can recall distant memories of childhood, or a song in a foreign land can make us think of our distant friends and family. Sometimes these memories feel locked deep, just waiting for the right key to unlock them and bring them out. This is where serendipity comes to play.

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As I walked around the Insadong area I stumbled by this statue. What’s this? It’s the kind of attention grabber any gallery would love to have. It’s recognisable, it stands out, its different enough, yet friendly and familiar. For me it stands precariously on the edge of cliché and popularism, yet remembering that the line between cliché and power, between the accessible and a sell-out isn’t so much a fine line as it is a giant, fuzzy blur, I decide to look closer.

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Revival-Moose  Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
240x220x140cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I’m not sure how I feel about this piece. I love the size. I love the brute power. However this particular piece isn’t quite… dynamic in movement. It’s a familiar kind of creature, yet it’s made of familiar objects. For my non-Korean audience, a good portion of this sculpture seems to be made of these nickel-silver pots:

They’re cheap and plentiful. Use them for cooking ramyeon (ramen). Look closer, you can see these pounded and disfigured forms creating the apparent bulk of the beast.

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Playing with the memories of discarded cooking ware and memories of fauna most have probably never seen in person. Interesting. Well, even though I have mixed feelings on this piece, I decided to enter the gallery to see what’s inside.

IMG_3019 An invitational exhibition of Jeong Ui-Ji called Engram.

Engram? That sounds familiar. What does that mean?

en·gram
noun
noun: engram; plural noun: engrams
  1.  hypothetical permanent change in the brain accounting for the existence of memory; a memory trace.

What traces of memory do we find?

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Engram 잊혀진 기억 2 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

The texture rich triptych is composed of abandoned cans crushed together and cut to create a flat surface. The frame is as much a part of this work as the cans contained. Fleeting memories of the thousands of times we thoughtlessly enjoy a drink. How many memories from childhood are crushed and compressed inside our failing, rusting mind?

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A growing trend in contemporary art seems to be that of ‘upcycling’, which is just a fancy rebranding of the word ‘reusing’ – but with a twist. It is to reuse but to create something of greater value than the original. A great way to get more money out of people willing to buy into branding. A reused or recycled object is dirty. An upcycled object, well, that’s special. This is not a new thing of course, but the rebranding of this action is. Forgive me, I love the idea, but I’m exceedingly cynical of the terminology and the shallow opportunistic feel it gives.

There were two more ‘Engrams’ of abandoned cans:

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Engram – 잊혀진 기억 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

Engram – 잊혀진 기억 3 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

These two are almost identical. While the texture is interesting, I can’t say I’m a fan. Overall the texture becomes very flat and similar overall. There is at least a little bit of variety in the triptych, though it suffers from the same problem. Up close though, it becomes a bit more interesting:

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A bit. I feel a little bad for not liking these more. It’s not quite as accessible as his Revival series due to the apparent abstract appearance. I do like the idea of buried or forgotten memories, but concept alone does not carry an idea for me.

While interesting, the real stars of the show are the other members of the Revival series. Meet the Kudu.

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Revival – Greater Kudu Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
200x120x220cm (2014)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

All for the low, low price of 16 million won. Or approximately $16,000.

I find this piece more impressive than the moose guarding the gallery. While not extreme, the posture is more dynamic with the twist of the head and the hind legs in a more natural pose. The ears seem to be scanning their surroundings, not quite focused on anything yet. I love the texture of the pot lids as they go down the spine and tail of the creature.

And to finish off this gallery exhibit are a pair of iguanas:

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Revival – Iguana Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
15x75x75cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

 

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Revival – Iguana 2 Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
113x50x15cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I think I like these guys. The texture and rhythm of the nickel-silver pounded and moulded together in the familiar iguana shapes is entrancing. Or was that enchanting? If you get to the gallery before the exhibit gets pulled down (March 4th, 2014!) they include a nice little video showing how the artist created the work.

Or you could visit his blog over on Naver:

http://blog.naver.com/loveart21c

He has some very nice work up there. I particularly love the pangolins, which, after seeing them on the video and his blog, I wish had been at the exhibit. But we can’t have everything in life, now can we?

If you want to drop by before the show is taken down, check out:

Gallery Soo (갤러리수)
서울시 종로구 인사동5길 21

You can find it easily from the Insadong McDonalds. They usually have good shows there, so check ’em out after the date too!

Saturday, August 24th

The summer heat is slowly dying and Saturday explorations are becoming viable again.  Jihye and I have plans for the evening, but lunch is a good start. So after a morning of selling myself for fun and profit, we venture out on a beautiful Saturday to find food. After some discussion we decide to waltz over to…

SALT

Cafe Gallery
https://www.facebook.com/CafeSalt7

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Salt is a lovely little café restaurant that serves a mean bibimbap. It’s a lovely little space tucked away in Jongno with a gallery and fresh food. A full review will probably appear eventually, but no promises.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they are not serving food when we arrive there.

Nooooooooo!

I hope you noticed I added a caption to an already captioned animated gif. Anyway, it’s possible they don’t serve food on Saturdays, which is unfortunate because that is when we visited.

I’ll still recommend the place and I’ll probably do a proper review of the place eventually. You can find it here:

Salt Cafe Gallery
Jongno-gu Jongno 16 gil 32-4 Dongsan Building
종로구 종로16길 32-4 동산빌딩

But we are still without food, so we decide to venture to Samcheong-dong. For my dear readers not in the Seoul area, Samcheong-dong is a fairly upscale district, with most buildings no more than two or three stories tall. It is a wonderfully up-kept place with both modern and traditional architecture, along with a more interesting variety of food than your average Seoul district. The day is getting hotter and to get to Samcheong-dong, we must walk through…

Insa-dong

Insa-dong is a happy mixture of art and touristy merchants. And occasionally they have live performances. Today we happened across one of those performances.

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Not a performance so much as posing…

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The temperature in the sun is uncomfortable, but these guys are able to just stand here! They’re demonstrating how  throws look in a live freeze-frame. I’m actually not sure which martial art they’re replicating, but it was pretty cool to see.

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They’re all wearing the famous Yangban mask from one of the traditional mask dances that have thus far eluded me. Interestingly enough, I find they evoke both old culture, but also anonymity and rebellion, much like the Guy Fawkes mask. If you want to see a good usage of the latter, I highly recommend checking out Yangbantal – a group that visits old abandoned or dangerous areas wearing these masks. Fun!

After the performers pack up, we continue north to Samcheong-dong. We wander around until we decide on…

Hit the Spot

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Hit the Spot is visually fun and cozy. The food is also quite fun! We shared the Mushroom Salad…

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and the Shrimp Pane Pasta!

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Gotta love bread bowls to sop up the delicious, delicious cream sauce. We’ll be coming back here to try their other dishes, but these definitely hit the spot!

Hit the Spot is across the street from the new Museum of Modern Art being constructed. I’m über excited about that!

If’n you want to find the place, you can find it here:

Hit the Spot

서울특별시 종로구 소격동 87

After a satiating dinner, we decide to hit the cafe next door and read. Just spending time together until it’s time to head to Jamsil to see…

Penguins!

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Penguins Penguins Penguins!

Penguins!

Oh, right, I guess we have something else on our agenda. What was it again? Oh, right!

Avenue Q!

At the Charlotte Theater, Jamsil. No Penguins though.

For those of you who don’t know, Avenue Q is basically… Sesame Street for adults. And adult topics. It’s the origin of the following song:

Oh, and probably NSFW.

Of course the theatre was properly decked out, including the urinals in the men’s bathroom.

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This is a fun one. Some Koreans have a… hard time coming close enough to the urinals, so this one plays on their potential shame… roughly translated it says “If you don’t come closer, I will tell everyone what you saw tonight.”

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And of course Trekkie Monster is a perv so… “I like seeing your ‘thing’ more than porn!”

Thanks Trekkie Monster. You saved the day.

The Korean version has been modified slightly, so many references were switched to famous Korean figures. For instance, ‘George Bush’ in the song For Now was switched to ‘Kim Jeong Un’. Speaking of For Now…

The closing number, For Now,  is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes 3 – to everything a season, and, at least for me, evokes the same existential sadness.

Anyway, we enjoyed the show. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we’re going to see it again in two weeks time! But for now I’m finished writing. But only for now.

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Penguin Small Penguin Penguin Coffee! Penguin Small Penguin!