Monthly Archives: May 2011

Hello Kitty Restaurant & Amusement

South Korea LOVES Hello Kitty! Of course I myself have a soft spot for the cute kitty in pink too. When I first made it to Korea I knew I had to get to one of the Hello Kitty café’s just to have the experience. Luckily two new friends also shared my same love of Hello Kitty and have two little girls of their own that they wanted to share the experience with as well.

We left a little before 9AM this morning and caught the train in on line one switching lines in Jongno-ga to line three. We took line three all the way to Madu Station, where we got off and went out exit 4 and walked a few blocks taking a left at the Kim’s Club you will see a New Core Outlet Mall on the right we continued walking until seeing the Western Dom shopping area located on the right-hand-side of the street. I made sure to take some reference points for anyone who is planning a trip to check out the area or the Hello Kitty Restaurant. Also Hello Kitty does not open until 11:00AM so you will want to plan accordingly.

Once we got to Western Dom I was pretty excited! We all were pretty impressed and thought this place was pretty awesome! Western Dom is located in Ilsan, South Korea. It’s got a mall vibe but it’s open and exposed to the outdoors at each end plus has some light traffic running through the center of it. Where do I begin? Oh, Yes! Tons and tons of places to eat, shop, play games, grab coffee, and of course visit Hello Kitty! I can’t wait to drag Larry back so he can check out the area too!
We had a bit of a struggle trying to locate the Hello Kitty elevators because it’s on floor three of the Western Dom building. I’m not sure if it was because we were so into checking out what all Western Dom had to offer or just the fact that we were looking so hard…nevertheless we ended up walking right past the doors twice. On the third attempt we saw the Hello Kitty logo on the glass doors and the small room that have three elevators inside.

YEY! We finally made it! The elevator doors opened into another room that had lockers all along the wall. You could put whatever you needed to store and take the key for free while you were inside. Be prepared that you have to remove your shoes, so bring your socks, (Hello this is South Korea) and put on red slippers that they provide you with to be able to enter.

We got there a bit after lunch-time and we were starving after the journey. We immediately decided to order food and let the girls run a bit while the food was being prepared. I opted for chicken pilaf, the two ladies I was with both got pasta carbonara. The little girls shared a plate of chicken cutlet and we had two orders of garlic bread. We had a ton of food! Everything was very good. The ladies said the bacon really stuck out in the pasta dish but that they enjoyed it. Hello Kitty provides the little girls with juice boxes and they bring out a side of pickles too. The total bill for our lunch and the cost for the two girls to play was $60,000 won so roughly $60.00 US. The plates at Hello Kitty range from $9,000 won upwards to about $13,500. They offer a desert menu that features a mud pie with a small scoop of ice- cream or a brownie paired also with a small scoop of ice-cream. Drinks are pretty typical cola, cider, coffees, teas, wine, beer, etc.

The play area is really nice for the children. There is a huge pink castle that you can go inside and play “house” in. Inside the castle Hello Kitty furnished with little pink and white tables, fake foods to play with, blocks, etc. There is a tube that runs inside the castle that the children can crawl through and it’s completely see through so you can keep an eye on your little one. There is a ball pit, slide, a motorized palm tree merry-go-round, little cars for the little ones to get inside and “drive around” in, a library, dress-up area where they have an array of dress-up clothing, a train that children can take around a small track, a baby-room if you have a teeny one that needs to take a nap or be changed, little children’s rest-rooms that feature smaller toilets and sinks, large party area for those that are throwing a party or event, and of course a gift-store area.

We had a great time and it was totally worth the trip! Feel free to check out the website (although it’s in Korean) or you can check out the pictures included above.

As I said I cannot wait to drag Larry back to check out the area as well as hit up one of the Hello Kitty Café’s located around Seoul. I also plan on making a stop at the Hello Kitty store located nearby in Uijongbu.

Seoul’s Buddhist Street Festival

This weekend marks the two-thousand-255th anniversary of Buddha’s birth. Located on the main street in front of the Jogyesa Temple, we checked out the Buddhist street festival. This festival featured over 100 booths set up to demonstrate ceremonial tea-making and ceremonial bowing (a special breathing method used by Buddhist nuns).

The best part about this event was that most everything offered was FREE! We were totally taken back at how much stuff there was to do, sample, and see all for FREE! There were also designated translators for foreigners who were at the festival and were struggling to understand or communicate what was was going on.

We made lotus flowers, sampled traditional teas, tried various temple foods, got to try on traditional Korean hanbok clothing and have our picture taken, had our face painted with a lotus flower, went inside the beautiful Jogyesa temple, got our last name written in Hangeul the Korean alphabet, and checked out various stage performances.

When we were getting ready to leave we came across the Tibetan monks making a sand mandala. This sand mandala contained various colors of sand that are made from crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Don’t worry we snapped pictures to show you what we are talking about.

Seoul’s Friendship Festival and Lotus Lantern Parade

We had an AMAZING time at the Friendship Festival at the Seoul Plaza, Mugyo-dong! The festival is just a small piece of the action going on in this bustling city in the beginning of May. We found out in doing a bit of research that the festivals going on this week are 9 days and are spread out over 8 different surrounding areas. We think it is awesome that the city does this yearly and we would have loved to have experienced every part of the festival but unfortunately we were only there for the weekend with an event packed schedule.

We lucked out with the weather because it was forecasted to rain the entire weekend we were booked to stay in Seoul. However the weather turned out to be gorgeous the two days we were there!

The festival featured booths from 60 different countries all coming together to celebrate global unity and diversity. Each booth had regional crafts, traditional foods, and native performances. We snapped some pictures to share our experience with you all.

Onto the foods…the foods were delicious! Most countries wanted you to try a sample of the foods being offered thus enticing you to buy the foods. The foods being served ranged from hot dogs at the United Kingdom stand, pastries from France, joojeh sandwiches from Iran, Mythos beer from Greece, Turkish ice-cream from Turkey, bratwurst and Krombacher from Germany, or Larry’s favorite Norway serving up your choice of smoked or grilled salmon sandwiches. Basically we shopped, took in the sights, and ate ourselves around the world that afternoon. MmmMmmmMmmm!!

If you are ever in Seoul during the month of May we highly recommend that you head downtown and see what it is all about.

After spending the entire day at the Friendship Festival we decided to check out a café by the name of Artisée and rest out feet until it was time to head up the street where the Lotus Lantern parade would take place. We snapped a few pictures of the Café really enjoyed the green tea latte, coffee, and cappuccino.

Once the sun started to go down we decided we better go and find our spots for the Lotus Lantern parade. We heard that you need to stake out prime parade real-estate…we quickly found on that this is no joke! The parade ran from Dongdaemun Gate to the street in front of Jogyesa Temple. At first we were smushed in a large group of people hardly being able to see above some other foreigner’s heads and trying to take pictures and video by holding the camera up over the crowd. Luckily we were able to worm our way up to the front where we were able to see and take pictures of everything.

One of the best things we love about Korean’s is their willingness to come up to foreigners and try to explain what is going on at a festival or what something is. We learned that the Buddhist believe the lighting of a lotus-shaped lantern symbolizes the devotion to preform good deeds and that it lights up the dark parts of the world that are filled with such agony. We also learned that the lantern-lighting practice was developed by the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties and is still preserved by public demonstrations such as this parade. This year the city really tried to incorporate bringing foreigners into the mix by offering lantern making events, tasting temple dishes, and making your own rubbings of a Buddhist shape.

The parade reminded us of a much grander scale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States. The parade featured more than 1000,000 massive, illuminated lanterns in various shapes of lotus flowers, elephants, dragons, fruits, and much more. We were so awe-struck getting a chance to take in these orbs of lighted lanterns bob and sway down the entire Jongno Street.
The lanterns are carefully hand crafted with materials such as silk or paper and represent health, longevity, or bountiful harvest. The parade lasted a little over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

After the parade the Hoehyang Hanmadang post-parade celebration kicked off. The event was held at the Jonggak Intersection and started roughly at 9:30PM until about 11:00PM. It was crazy because as soon as the parade ended they lifted up the tape holding people back from entering the Lotus lantern parade route and people rushed to grab a seat in front of the two large screen TV’s and stage. We knew there was a post-parade event scheduled but we had no idea that we were in the right location to quick grab a spot up front.

The post-parade celebration was just as fantastic as the parade! We got to experience all sorts of traditional and modern Korean dancing and singing. To end the night there was a Korean time-honored traditional circle dance known as a ‘ganggangsullae’ dance, this is where everyone holds hands to dance and sing amongst the flying flower petals (check out the pictures). We loved getting to experience this huge crowd of people all singing and holding hands dancing around in formed circles. After the dance the burning of written seowon (wishes and resolutions) were released from the lanterns of hope. This is a ceremony in which 100,000 wish lanterns are let loose into the sky.


YES! Our household goods and car arrived today! WOO-HOO!

Actually, we were just getting used to the fact that we were living without all of the things we had back in the US. This experience has made use both question is there really a true need to live with all of this excessive stuff? We had the bare minimum of necessities while we awaited our shipment but we were doing rather fine without it. However, it is nice to open up one of your kitchen drawers and be able to have your pick of tools to get whatever you are cooking done.

The movers came promptly at 9AM and were out of here in a little under 2 hours. We were impressed at how quick and efficient they were!

First, the movers unloaded the car off of a wrecker, next they came around the back of the building and lined the ladder truck up with the living room windows to unload all of the items through, then they brought the truck around with all of the boxes and furniture, loaded the platform up with everything, brought it through the window opening, called out a number that was marked on everything as they took it into each room, Larry checked off the numbers as they came through, I inspected to make sure nothing was broken and everything was there that the movers packed in the US.

The car looked awesome with no scratches or things missing from it. Everything arrived the way it was packed up in the US except for the living room furniture that had scratches in the wood and an oil stain on the arm and back of the oversized chair cushion (I covered it up with a blanket for now so we don’t have to see it). We were a bit disappointed but we both agreed that it has had a good life and when we officially settle down we can replace it all, and of course that is what insurance is for.

We had to laugh because we have a king size bed (that we decided to bring because we had just bought it before the whole unexpected South Korea move) and the Korean movers thought the two boxsprings were two single beds. I guess this is because Korean mattresses are so incredibly different. We had a love hate relationship with our Korean mattress. I hated it and Larry loved it because it was like sleeping on a rock with no fluff whatsoever.

Right before the movers left they helped us adjust where we wanted the living room furniture took all the excess of empty boxes and then were gone.

We believe that the key to getting through these crazy days is to just have fun with it. We were like little kids in a candy store as we unpacked all of our kitchen spices. Even Miss Bean acted like she had not seen furniture in years! We caught her rolling all over our bed and couches repeatedly.

Children’s Day 어린이날 Celebration in New City

Today is an absolutely beautiful day! The sun is shining and it is going to reach a high of 75! What a great day to get outside and take a walk. Larry and I are really hooked on these mixed nuts from Lotte Mart so I thought I’d go grab some more giving me an excuse to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Before leaving the house I found out today, May 5th, is Korea’s “Children Day”, a holiday that is celebrated to honor children of all ages. How cute is that! I’m not aware of this celebration in the US… but if we do celebrate it, maybe we are just not quite up to speed because we do not have a little bee of our own yet. Anyways, there are various countries that also celebrate this holiday but it may fall on a different day. This special day really reminds me of how the US celebrates Christmas or a birthday because the child is just showered with gifts and fun.

In South Korea, Children’s Day is pronounced (orini nal). A Korean children’s writer by the name of Pang Chong-hwan founded the holiday in the year 1923. The holiday represents a child’s need for love, devotion, and respect. Children’s day is also a day to honor adults that have contributed to improving the lives of children.

Many cities have events such as parades or activities set up for the children to participate in for the holiday. The celebration that I got to witness located in New City about 10 minutes away from our apartment had all an entire city street blocked off. On this street there was a large stage where children were performing and dancing around, traditional games and crafts were set up and all sorts of vendors selling items geared towards children.

In Lotte Mart while picking up our mixed nuts I got to see just how crazy the holiday really was. Toys were set up strategically to market the holiday and of course there were children of all ages picking out a new toy with their parents. It was really entertaining to watch each child so eager and excited to pick out a new toy! I only had my iphone so you have to bear with me on a few of these pictures.

I took some quick video with my iphone of the celebration. I thought it was really cute! The kids preforming on stage were really good too!