Monday, January 30, 2017

Airplane Massage Cafe - "First Class Healing Cafe"

Preparing for my travels to Korea entails lots of research on places to eat, unique local spots, and activities to do. I found that the best way for me was to watch vlogs on Youtube of those who reside in Korea.

Youtubers in Korea:
Megan (ChoNunMigookSaram)
Joan Kim
Edward Avila
Simon and Martina (EYK)

I found out about the airplane cafe, called First Class Healing Cafe, by watching ChoNunMigookSaram. It was tricky finding the exact location of the cafe since she didn't have an address in the video. Of course, I immediately looked it up on google to see if that would help narrow down my search. Unfortunately, it was fruitless because in Korea, shops are constantly changing (closing or getting replaced by a different shop). And it seems like this massage cafe was newly opened since not that many people seemed to be aware of it on social media. Luckily for me, I was familiar with the Hongdae Area and was able to figure out the location based on the nearby stores in the video.
Once you enter, you can choose the length of the session and the "country" you want to fly to. There are 30 minute sessions or 15 minute sessions. Since we were the last customers for the night, we opted for the 15 minute session and took the complimentary drinks and waffles to go instead of eating it there.
After getting seated in the massage chairs, you take off your shoes and put on a "sock." You are also given eyewear that warms up and plays soothing music. You also get to choose specific areas where you want the massage to focus on--such as your head, shoulders, back, waist, etc. I opted for my shoulders since I'm usually stiff there. As someone who is extremely ticklish and not a fan of massages, it was unsettling at first to have the massage chair ripple through my nerves in a wave like motion. Instead of feeling more relaxed, my body tensed up when the machine began to dig into my pressure points. However, after the session was over, I did feel as if some of my joints were less stiff than when I walked in. Will I sign up for this again though? Probably not. But for people who love massages, this cafe is worth visiting for sure! I can see my parents enjoying this if it were to open up in the U.S. as well.
Address: 서울시 마포구 서교동 345-2 천마빌딩 5층 퍼스트클래스 홍대점
Official Cafe Website

Train to Busan

Studying abroad would not feel complete if I didn't get the opportunity to travel outside of Seoul, which is why I decided to take a weekend trip to Busan. Luckily, we had Fridays off, which meant we had 3 day weekends to ourselves to do whatever we want. Planning an itinerary was difficult at first because we had so many places we wanted to visit, yet so little time to explore Busan to its fullest.

Below are some of the spots we visited:
  • Nampo-dong
  • Jagalchi Market
  • Haeundae Beach
  • Busan Film Festival
  • Gukje/Mokja Alley
  • Shinsegae Mall
  • Lotte Department Store
Gentle Monster display (Busan branch only)
Hoddeok Stand in BIFF
The area we stayed at (Nampo-dong area) was relatively nice and not that different from Seoul. We were walkable distance from the shopping district. I was able to pick up a few clothing items from the road shops, and loved how the prices were slightly lower than they were in Seoul for similar pieces. Snagging a cute floral dress, a t-shirt and skirt for just 20,000 won? What a steal!

The food markets are also located close to Nampo--Busan Film Festival (BIFF) area in particular is filled with many street food stands whether you are there in the morning or at night. Trying the nuts and sugar filled hoddeok is a must when you are at BIFF. Fishcakes and seafood are also well known in Busan. The food courts of both Lotte and Shinsegae department stores are worth visiting if you are into exploring more food options in an indoor spot. There are drinks, desserts, bakeries, and various cuisines.
Bibimdangmyeon from Gukje Alley
Fish Cake Store

Lotte Mall's Busan branch is also unique because of its indoor water fountain and its specially designed outdoor garden and rooftop.

 For dinner, we went to Jagalchi Market for fresh seafood.

The next morning, we took a bus from our airbnb to Haeundae Beach. The bus ride was roughly 45 minutes from the Nampo neighborhood.

Twinning with our matching dresses from Nampo street stores~

 Some other spots I have been to in the past that are worth visiting:
  • Gamcheon Village
  • Busan Tower
  • Taejongdae

Gamcheon Village is worth a visit, but do keep in mind that you will spend a few hours here just trying to navigate through the colorful houses. However, it is really nice once you get to the top of the neighborhood, where you can watch the sunset. Many of the houses are decorated with cute murals, great for a quick photo session!

The Busan Tower is similar to the Namsan Tower back in Seoul. Instead of a cable car, there is a long escalator that brings you up to the base of the tower. It's worth a visit to see the city from above at night, and there is a souvenir shop where you can purchase goods or postcards, and even mail it out there! (They provide stamps!) On the otherhand, Taejongdae is a scenic spot that's perfect for overseeing the ocean and taking in the beauty of nature.

Extra spots I didn't get visit:
  • Dadaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams
  • Gwangan Bridge (Rainbow Bridge)

Boryeong Mud Festival + Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

One of the advantages of studying at Yonsei were the additional excursions you can sign up for when you register. I opted to attend the one day trip at a the annual summer mud festival in Boryeong, and it was my far the best decision after landing in Korea. It's not everyday where you can see visit an adult playground where it is acceptable to get dirty and roll around in mud. The mudflats in Korea are known for health and beauty benefits. The mud festival itself is a weekend long event--each day there are special activities and possibly even celebrity guests. This year Psy was invited as the guest, but unfortunately we attended this event on Friday, and he was only there on Saturday.

The benefit of attending this event with the school instead of going on your own is that the entire day's itinerary is planned out for you. We had 2 rest stops, once for lunch at a Korean buffet restaurant and the other for a quick bathroom break. Once we arrived at the beach, we checked in our bags at the entrance and received a bag number and wristband for entry.
Korean Fire Truck Station
The event has 3 sections, the first part was more geared towards kids, so not many people were there. The 2nd section had massive mud slides, wrestling mud pools, etc. Finally, the last section was the beach--there was a huge stage set up with dancers, and music blasting--edm, kpop, etc. It reminded me of summer music festivals back in NYC, except this one was upgraded because each side of the stage had these machines that would spontaneously spray water at the audience. Definitely helped with cleaning off some of the mud from our skin!

Towards the end of our stay, there was also an aeroplane show which was fascinating and extremely loud. The group of planes circled around in in intricate patterns, leaving behind streaks of colors in the sky. After spending a few hours frolicing around in the mud and trying out each of the activities, it was finally time to clean up and head home. Away from the games were public shower rooms (one for men and one for women) that we could use--the rooms were simply a container with shower heads lining up all the walls, and a small section in the front that was divided so people could change and use the lockers. There weren't enough lockers for everyone, so a majority of us left our belongings on the floor as we changed. Unfortunately for me, I left my towel on the hooks and completely forgot about it when I left because it was really crowded inside.
The bus ride back was nice and quiet, all of us were exhausted and slept on the way back. By the time we got back, the sun had set and it was past dinner time. A few of us decided to grab dinner near the dorms before heading back to properly shower and knock out.
Entrance of DDP (connecting to train station)
Dongdaemun's Design Plaza reminded me of my trip to Miami, where Ocean Drive was filled with buildings lining the street with colorful lights. The architecture of the building was an interesting shape, the gray walls lighting up with scattered while lights. But the prettiest attraction of all was the plastic flower garden past the flea market and down the stairs to the lower level. There are also food stands in DDP that sell various street foods and drinks.