Thanks to anime and a love of melodramatic Asian films, I’ve always idealized the idea of walking among cherry blossoms trees, especially in Korea or Japan. In my mind, to be among a sea of cherry blossoms was to no doubt have an experience brimming with drama, tranquility, and romance. Living right by Seokchon Lake, an area that prides itself on its scenic atmosphere and annual cherry blossom display, I finally got to have my overseas cherry blossom experience, and find out for myself if it was grand and profound as I’d dreamed…
Seoul’s cherry blossom display is exceptionally beautiful, but a rather fleeting beauty at that. Due to an abundance of stormy weather and unexpectedly warm temperatures, the blooming of the cherry blossoms came and went in a flash. By the time the Cherry Blossom Festival came around, which is where I snapped these shots, the blooms were already just about on their way out.
And while there was much beauty to be seen, with couples crowding each other to capture the perfect selfie, and the sounds of a bass-heavy, aggressive rapping boy band floating through the air, the experience was far from tranquil. It was loud, crowded, and felt a lot more like a carnival than a nature walk, but ultimately it was fun and relaxing in its own frenetic way.
Dozens of couples lounged around the park on picnic blankets, young ladies waved around tufts of pink cotton candy, and women dressed like characters from the Disney Movie “Frozen”strolled amongst the crowd, causing children to go absolutely crazy. Is Frozen as big in the states as it is here? Every single human being besides me seems to have seen it at least five times. And I don’t mean just children, I mean everyone across the board. If you’re in the states, please do enlighten me and tell me if the song “Let It Go” is on the radio at least 20 times a day like it is here.
Sleek, long line coats are absolutely everywhere you turn in Korea. I picked up this offbrand jacket and my felt hat in Hongdae, Seoul. My skeletal Totoro bag is from an amazing hard-edged otaku brand, Fiend or Fauxx, and my boots are Nine West.
Speaking of clothes, it’s been an interesting experience going clothing shopping during my first month out here. I heard a lot of mixed things before moving–“everything is Korea is so cheap!” or “buying clothing is Korea is REALLY expensive.” Well, to that I would say yes and no…
As in any country, not all places are created equal. I live by department stores selling Gucci and Chanel, Forever 21s, and vendors selling leggings out of the back of a truck–well duh. And Forever 21, well that must be cheap, you might think, but no, if so, you’d be incorrect. Your Forever 21 and H&M are both overseas brands, and anything overseas automatically jacks up the price.
If you’re trying to shop on a budget or feel like a guilt-free shopping spree, your best friends in Seoul will be subway shops and sidewalk sales. And when it comes to subway shops, more often than not I find myself shopping in Gangnam station. Gangnam station is one of the heavy hitters when it comes to subway shopping experiences–with rows and rows of tiny, cramped, yet wonderfully discounted clothing and accessory racks, it’s pretty much an underground mall, albeit with weirder lighting and more of a frantic atmosphere.
What I like about shopping in Gangnam station is that you can actually have a lengthy, fulfilling shopping experience with just a couple of dollars. You can easily expect to find rows and rows of shirts, pants, skirts, and dresses ranging from $5-10 each.
In order to find the gems, however, expect to dig through overstuffed racks and push through crowds of determined shoppers. Also, you have to fine-tune your ability to guestimate. Korea is a big fan of the “one size fits all” and even when sizes are available, Korean sizes and US sizes are two different things entirely… If you have a large chest especially, pay close attention to the stretch and cut of the designs.
I’ve been amassing a nice collection of shirts that have wonderfully random English phrases on them. This “Hamburger And Bread” tee is my most recent purchase, but you can expect to see many of the others in future posts. I’m especially happy about that skeleton tee I scored, because while I snagged it for $5 in Gangnam station, I definitely saw the the exact same shirt being sold for $25 at a nearby goth boutique.
I didn’t get a chance to photograph new beauty products this week for a review, but I’ll make sure to include two in the next post. I can tell you right now, two things I’m loving are snail masks and whitening face peels. Products I’m not loving? More on that next blog post…
So do you have any suggestions for cool things to see in Seoul? Any questions, feedback? Leave a comment below! ^^