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IMG_0201Entrance to down and cool complex fun Hong Ik University town (Hong Dae),  Seoul

Get on the subway line 2 and literally get off at  “Hong Ik University” station in Shin Chon area. It’s very easy to get around in Seoul by Subways. Just like NY. It’s just more pleasant with fancy double sliding glass doors and velvet covered heated seats. Oh and great phone reception on entire subway line! Clean and Fast. Maybe the best way to get around the town for sure. I took Andrew and Jessica with me to stroll Hong Dae ( Dae  means “University”  in Korean) and hope to find a perfect little bar restaurant to sip some good sake and munching on little dishes!

If you were ever been in Tokyo, you would notice it right away. Hong Dae town greatly reminds you of Shibuya and Shimo Kitajawa in Tokyo yet less commercial. Bit grunge, bit bohemian, tiny tiny shops and groups of stream of cute and young people. Especially on the weekend nights, it gets much lively. Little cafes and restaurants and bars are everywhere with cute signs and charming attitude. They look interesting. A huge underground music scenes and weekend artist market called ” Free Market (not Flea Market) is also supposed to be quite cool and hip. There supposed to be many young artists from Hong Ik university and outside selling their art and artsy objects while they are creating them in the market. A few indie bands also joins the weekend art fair. It all sounds quite interesting. Hong Dae town is sort of a small meting pot of Young culture of Seoul.

Below, one of many small shops. It says ” Avenue, Hong Dae”


IMG_0216_2To top off great reputation to have the best Fine Art  major in Korea at Hong Dae University, the vibe at this university town is Artsy and Carefree.  It’s still commercial yet got lots of character and attitude. You will also find good amount of vintage shops selling accessories and vintage clothing that are  from 70′s and on.

IMG_0213_2One of vintage shops in the town, Cat’s. Their website.  www.lunabagel.com 

IMG_0210_2Andrew trying on a vintage fur vest with leather trim! You know fur is super “In” in Korea and the rest of world. You know!

IMG_0205_2The ultimate Street food, Thukbokki house. Spicy chili sauce rice cake with fish cake, garlic, sugar and more. This is The national street food of Korea.

IMG_0203Ttuckbokki man stirring Ttuckbokki and next to it,  Oden (Japanese fish cake ) on sticks simmering inside Dashi (dried fish based clean broth). Dashi is well known to be the base broth for Udon noodle soup.

IMG_0214_2It’s typical to see many commercial places located on the second floor in Korea. Or let’s say in Asia in general. Especially in Korea though. A small country and crowded city makes the real estate market impressively expensive. I am not kidding the Seoul real estate market is way way more expensive than Manhattan!

IMG_0236_2Karaoke building, ZillerOzone.  Karaoke, Norebang in Korean, gets quite fancy here in Seoul. Individual rooms with drinks and food you can order in. Private service for private parties and free recording of your entire singing session during the stay. You can walk away with a CD with your own recording.

IMG_0218After a few days of hearty delicious Korean food, We are up for some yummy sake and Japanese bites!  We find this small yet wonderful place, ” To-Ra”, a Japanese sake Bar with many tasty dishes!  Traditional looking wooden facade and Japanese sign attracted us right away!

IMG_0217The first floor of the sake bar. A tiny place. We almost walked out thinking not enough space for 3 of us but friendly owner stopped us to try the second floor. Actually the third floor. Their entrance is on the semi second floor. The restaurant is located on a smooth hill. You can actually see well lined up sake bottles from the outside. The entrance floor may be able to serve only 10 people in total. 

IMG_0221The third floor and To-Ra’s actual second floor. Many more tables and bigger space up here. Low ceiling, mixed and matched chairs and tables are cozily covered by dim and warm orange lighting.  It’s perfect for us to tuck ourselves in and do what we wanted to do for this freezing cold night. Order some sake and delicious food and chat the night away…

IMG_0220_2Little nibbles to start. Bean sprouts. It’s on the house. Delicious!

IMG_0224_2Hot Oden pot on the table cooker. Various shapes and kinds of Oden. Mushrooms, scallions and Dashi broth. Let it all boil and just dig in!

IMG_0228_2Fried Squid bites with black squid ink.  So crispy and fresh. Squeeze of lemon and Yum Yum Yum!  Below Jessica and Andrew…


IMG_0230_2Quick fried soft tofu sitting in a soy based broth…  This was one of my favorite. So tender and so much flavor. I loved it!

IMG_0231Seared tuna with ponzu sauce and side of grilled wild mushroom. It was bit too cold at the center but still yummy. Or we may have been quite full by the time this dish arrived. Regardless, isn’t it pretty!?

IMG_0223Me and Jessica cheering to the night. The last night of great week at the Korea office together.

IMG_0233_2A view of Hong Dae through a cozy window of “To-Ra” Sake bar. 

IMG_0242_2After a long lovely dinner with Andrew and Jessica, we headed out for a little strolling for the town a bit. ( also needed to walk after that big dinner!)  You will find quite many Taro Card readings in the town. About $4.00 a session.

IMG_0241Another Bar, ” Po Cha”.  An old traditional signage for a bar: a wooden box lamp. These small details add lots of little charms to Hong Dae town.

IMG_0243Expect to see millions and billions of coffee shops in Seoul. The least interesting thins is the Star Bucks chain in Seoul. There are so many big and small independent coffee shops that make kick ass authentic coffee!  I was told most of coffee shop owners will go for a year or two of intense training to Italy to learn roasting coffee beans to making a heart on your cappuccino.  No place has disappointed my Italian native trained tongue for a good cup of coffee yet in Seoul.

IMG_0244_2Good interior and exterior design adds more fun to your cup of coffee.

IMG_0239_2A cute Sashimi and Japanese cuisine house, ” Wha Dong”. Wha means Flower in Korean.

IMG_0235_2Bit dirty and cute at the same time. A small street…

IMG_0245_2People are lined up to get into a club, Cocoon.  So Hong Dae town apparently has much appetite for all sort of music like Hip Hop, Jazz, House, Rock, Trans,  drum and base and more… The last Friday of each month  is a “Club Day”. You can do a club hopping with one single ticket you have purchased. Also it’s a great area to try  many small indie bands and other live concerts in Seoul.

IMG_0246Tented Food Carts= Pojang Macha= The best way to taste the most common street food in Korea.

I would say visiting Hong Dae Town is may be the best way to taste the heart of  Young culture in Seoul. With much tiring and suppressing education system in Korea, getting accepted into a college is the biggest deal of your life. And that is ‘ THE TICKET’ to start your true life as an adult. And they will truly enjoy that freedom to live, argue, read and think. And Hong Dae is a really good short cut to glance that Young culture of Korea.









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