Best free souvenir: Movie posters

It’s time to leave Korea and you’re scratching your head over what to buy for your friends, colleagues and loved ones. In the old days, Korean snacks, cosmetics and fashion were legendary items exclusive to those who’ve actually been to Korea. But nowadays everything from Pepero to Tony Moly can found in malls in Singapore, Malaysia, Taipei etc. In many cases you don’t even gain significant savings buying in Korea.

Well there’s still one thing that can prove you’ve actually been to Korea and that’s a Korean movie poster. Korean cinemas release posters for every new release, so it’s a unique souvenir that can’t be replicated if someone went to Korea 3 months later. Posters are free so just saunter over to the nearest CGV / Lotte Cinema / Megabox and have your fill.

Studio Ghibli comes to Seoul

Are you a fan of Princess Mononoke, Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and other Hayao Miyazaki favourites?

There’s a special exhibition at Seoul’s Yongsan I’Park Mall that runs till the end of Feb 2015. It’s rather pricey at 15,000 won and it was disappointingly small, so I wouldn’t recommend it to casual visitors. But if you’re a big fan (like me) then you absolutely have to visit it anyway, haha. There’s also a gift shop with cards, folders, jigsaws, soft toys and more.

Howl's Moving Castle. It really moves.

Shopping for sportswear

I’m not a crazy shopper but one thing I do find Korea good for (besides cosmetics, alcohol and choco-pie) is sportswear.

While outdoor sports are pretty hot in Korea, outdoor sporting fashion is even hotter. Get on the subway and you won’t be hard pressed to find a few ahjummas and ahjosshis (middle-aged men and women) decked out in the latest waterproof, breathable, sweat-wicking hiking suits complete with boots and sticks. Even for a little stroll around the neighbourhood park, it’s not uncommon for Koreans to don five hundred dollars’ worth of gear.

With such a massive market, it’s not surprising that Korea is overflowing with sports stores. The intense competition between local names like Kolon Sport, Redface and Blackface (haha) as well as foreign brands Northface, K2 and Black Yak means you won’t be short of choice.

5 things to do in Busan

There are many good reasons to visit Busan. The weather is always better, local restaurants are generous with their delicious seafood and pork dishes, everything is cheaper and the views are breathtaking. Here are 5 things to do in Korea’s second largest city.

1) Watch seagulls at Haeundae

Start a new day with a visit to Korea’s most famous beach, named “Haeundae” or “The Sea, The Clouds and the Rocks” by a scholar-poet more than a thousand years ago. Take in the salty fresh air and be rejuvenated but watch out for the seagulls, who are keen on shrimp crackers. To reach Haeundae, get off the train at Haeundae station (Green Line) and follow the sound of the waves!

The beaches are also worth visiting at night, read more here.

Traditional Korean mask dance at Andong Hahoe village

Andong’s 400-year-old Hahoe village (pronounced “ha-hwe”) is a popular place for tourists to watch a traditional mask dance. You can reach Andong via bus from Korea’s major cities like Seoul and Busan. It is probably worth half a day, plus travel time.

Andong Hahoe village's traditional mask dance in action

Andong Hahoe village's traditional masks on sale

The masks are popular souvenirs. Besides the mask dance, the Hahoe village is also known for its exceptionally well-preserved traditional houses. This makes it a great place for photo buffs.

Books and DVDs for $3 at Aladin

One of my favourite stores is Aladin in Gangnam because it offers books and DVDs at magical prices! Although the items are second hand, they are in really good condition and often priced at 2700 won or so. Most of the books are in Korean, although you may find some English titles, and you can also check out their selection of Korean films (mostly with subtitles).

Aladin is located at the CGV building in the middle of the Gangnam shopping belt (halfway between Gangnam and Shin-Nonhyeon station). There are also other branches in Seoul and other cities in Korea.

Night at the Museum novel and My Sassy Girl Korean movie DVD from Aladin second-hand bookstore in Gangnam

Vegan cookies by Alien’s Day Out Bake Shop

I’m not really a Valentine’s Day type of person, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like accepting gifts on that day. Mr. M surprised me this year with cookies from Alien’s Day Out, a vegan bakery based in Seoul.  Don’t worry if you are like us elsewhere in Korea, they also spaceship their fresh baked goodies.  Our cookies were delivered without any of them being damaged. Maybe that’s alien technology?!  Sorry I am getting carried away with the cool name of this little company.


Oh, and one more thing. *Advice about The Arrival Store*

I’m home. Phew. That was a long flight.

I’m ecstatic to be home. Everyone said it would be weird and strange and that reverse culture shock is a monster, but honestly it’s been pleasant so far. Perhaps it is because my family has been amazingly supportive, I have so many friendships to catch up on and a few babies to meet (New people arrived while I was away!), and I am super busy networking and job searching.

Let’s shop ‘Folk Style’ at the Seoul Folk Flea Market

Once upon a time the Seoul Folk Flea Market (서울풍물시장) vendors set up shop around the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, Korea. Now they return each day to well-manicured squares of space within a recently built warehouse location. Some merchants refer to the market as The Ant Market due to its many moves over the years. Thankfully, a friend who is always in the know dragged me to the market a few weeks ago. I am very glad she did.


Neon Shop

Neon guys in Busan


Neon For Sale In Busan


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