Busan Highlight… Knockout Café! 🤪🥊

busan, places, Travel, Uncategorized

The majority of young people living and working in this marvelous country don’t simply drink coffee; they breathe it. Coffee shops are abundantly available; indeed walk along any city road and you are bound to come across at least one franchise coffee shop as well as a standalone, hipster vibing café. The coffee culture here is so ingrained, so ordinary that to visit a fancy café or simply grab a coffee to go from any coffee chain is a daily activity in Korea. I like to view the coffee culture in a similar way to the drinking culture back home in the UK. Normally, back home, a group of mates or a couple on a date will head out on a weekend to a bar to socialise or talk; sub the bar for a coffee shop, and replace weekend with every day, and you can imagine yourself in Korea.

The coffee culture doesn’t end with the cafés however; convenience stores and their fridges are always decked out with a vast selection of iced coffees, always on a 2 for 1 offer. Co-workers in any company will take pride in offering some of their hand-dripped coffee to their colleague, eagerly awaiting approval about their crafty, dark liquid. In addition there is always a big box of Maxim sachets on offer in every office; an easy to make, 3-in-1 coffee blend there, readily available for anyone and everyone needing a quick caffeine hit.

Have I made my point yet? Coffee is a staple part of life in Korea.

I spent the first year of my time in Busan exploring the many variety of coffee chains on offer; from the world-renowned Starbucks, to more Korean alternatives such as a Twosome Place (lovely cakes), finally ending up with the take-out kings at Compose Coffee (cracking milk tea during the winter months and a lush iced Choco Oreo latte during the summer).

The time felt right to morph in to a hipster and start exploring the more unique, standalone cafés pitched up on each and every single road, ready and waiting for its patrons to snap their insta-worthy shots.

On the daily, I walk around 서면 (Seomyeon), one of Busan’s hottest and more popular neighbourhoods, especially with the younger generations, and therefore my eagle eyes always spot a trendy looking restaurant or café that I add to my go-to list. Knockout café has been a permanent resident on my list for quite some time. Located down a side street, just off a main road (opposite the NC department store – always a good marker for people familiar with 서면), this café is dreamy from the get go.

The name of the café stands emblazoned in pink LED lettering, arching over a walkway that leads on to a stepping-stone path. The main entrance to the café lies to the left; a sliding door that opens to display the counter and till straight ahead with an arrangement of tables and chairs flanking the right side of the room. To the left is a cozy little love seat, padded with a soft comfy cushion, enough room for two people to just lie and relax, hidden away from peeping eyes thanks to the blue curtains containing it. Further beyond are the stairs that wind their way up revealing the true nature of Knockout; this is not just an ordinary café. Each and every seating area is designed and nurtured in such a specific and beautiful way; each table and set of chairs tell their own story. Some are styled to be living rooms, others are dining tables ready to host a dinner party. Go on up further and there is an outdoor seating arrangement: on one side, a wooden platform home to four tents, all snuggly inside with pillows and blankets, on the other, there are tables and chairs arranged under strings of twinkling fairy lights.

The café does not stop there; exit the main entrance and go to the left where there is a stairway going straight up with a doorway to the right. Through this doorway are more rooms with more various kinds of seating areas, all as wonderfully unique and lovely as the room that came before it. In general, the setup of and décor within Knockout are not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye but also remarkably comfortable, reminding oneself of home sweet home. A place to unwind, relax and cozy on down with a nice warm drink and sweet treat.

Speaking of a drink and a treat, Knockout’s menu provides its customers with a good variety; there are both a number of different coffees and teas, as well as smoothies, milkshakes and a whole load of cakes and other baked goods, such as croissants, scones and tarts, on offer, all lined up and on display ready for people to devour. In regards to the price, Knockout is fairly reasonable costing about 6,000\ per beverage and between 3,000-5,000\ per sweet treat. For sure there are cheaper alternatives when simply buying caffeinated drinks, both Compose Coffee and the Venti come to mind as well as convenience stores, however the coziness of Knockout is not something that can be so easily attained making it a highlight of Busan in my humble opinion and a must visit for all who crave a spot of comfort and homeliness in a city that can sometimes seem so foreign.

Christmas in Busan! 🎅🏻🎄

Travel

‘Tis with a heavy heart that I say the festive season is well and truly over. For everyone else anyway…

I have always enjoyed the month of December; seeing the twinkly lights ablaze around my city, decorating the tree at home with the mother’s best ornaments, splurging on cookie dough and Bailey’s hot chocolates at the Christmas markets in town. The joy for me doesn’t end come the evening of the 25th, after unwrapping my presents and gorging on a second helping of the most monumental Christmas dinner. Indeed, it doesn’t even come when the year draws to a close and I’m out and about, either at a bar or a house party screaming ‘Happy New Year!’ with a glass of prosecco in hand. For me, the festive season draws to a close after the first week in January; my birthday is the 7th, therefore meaning Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day and my birthday are all encompassed in to a fourteen day festive period. Therefore my festive season is not yet over; I still have three more days to enjoy the merriment!

Nonetheless, I thought it prudent to share the Christmas celebrations here in Busan and what better way to do so than with a whole load of Christmassy pictures! Mainly of the various decorations I saw whilst strolling the various city centres. I must admit, the pains of being away from home at such a time when family comes first have been firmly present. However Busan’s commitment to colourful, bright illuminations chirped me up quite a lot, reminding me that no matter where you are, there is always room for some festive cheer!

Haeundae Beach

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Seomyeon

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Nampo-dong

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Yangjeong

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And lastly, a picture of me with my Korean family, enjoying a feast on New Years Eve!

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I’ll sign off by saying I hope you all had a wonderfully Merry Christmas and all the best for 2019!

Plane to Busan!

Film, Travel

It has been a month and a day since I jumped on a plane in Manchester and moved half way across the world to Busan and what a blast I have had so far! After dreaming of living and working in South Korea for more than five years, I am SO happy to say I have not been disappointed once yet! Busan is everything I could have ever dreamt of and more; the sounds blasting around the streets, the sights of mountains in the near distance, the smells of barbecued meat and the narrow side streets that make me feel as though I have just stepped right in to the chase scenes from Na Hong-jin’s The Chaser… and that is just my local area, Seomyeon. Let’s delve in further and I will tell you all about the things I have enjoyed most thus far…

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Views for days!

THE FOOD

The love story between Emma and food is one for the ages and is perhaps greater than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the food in Busan has only made that love blossom and has taken it to a whole new level! Here’s my fave foods so far:

• Korean Fried Chicken is hella good; so far I have had it more times than I care to admit to myself but I’m just gunna say carpe diem and go with it! It has been worth it. It is suuuuuper crispy and so so tender! You can get some in a red sauce that is called Yangnyeom; it is spicy, it is sweet, it is sticky, it is delicious! I’ve had it with friends, a beer and a side of pickled radish and we were all the happiest we have ever been. I’m pretty sure I will be besties with the workers in my local Thunder Chicken in no time and I am more than okay with that!
• Korean BBQ: I left Manchester so certain no BBQ could match that of the one and only Abbers… I hate to say it but the barbecued food I have had out here so far registers at a close second place. Korean BBQ is so different from that which I’m used to. You grill the meat yourself in the centre of your table and it comes with lettuce leaves for you to wrap the juicy meat in with a lil bit of ssamjang! My co-workers recommended a restaurant called Maschandeul to me, the Dongnae branch, telling me they serve the best samgyeopsal (pork neck BBQ) in Busan so I headed there one Friday with my sister and daaaaaamn that place is amazing! I’ll definitely become a regular there enjoying their super succulent pork BBQ. I have also tried eel BBQ which again was so tasty but a little bit freaky considering the eel was extremely fresh and therefore their tails danced around a little when you initially threw them on the grill!
• Bungeoppang, little fish shaped pastries stuffed with red bean paste! I have to admit… I was a little sceptical about these before trying. I mean they are fish shaped and they are stuffed with something I have never tried before… but during my first week at my apartment I ventured over to the Korean grocery store close to my building and there was a little stand selling bungeoppang just opposite so I decided to give them a whirl. 2 lil fishy pastries for 1,000KRW which is hella cheap and my god, they are so damn good! Crunchy pastry, smooth, sweet filling: a warming snack on a chilly evening! Sadly my bungeoppang lady has disappeared off the face of the earth; either she has closed up shop or she has moved to a new location and I am a little devastated!

samgyeopsal

Samgyeopsal heaven!

NORAEBANG

Or just Korean karaoke rooms…

Usually back home a chilled night out means either grabbing food at a local restaurant or enjoying a few cocktails in a NQ bar but a chilled night here in Busan equates to one thing: singing your heart out to Aerosmith in a room with mates and a few glasses of somaek (a mixture of beer and soju)! I cannot speak for those who have had to suffer my seriously awful singing voice but I have certainly enjoyed the times I have spent screaming “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” in to a microphone. Also “Mmmbop”, “YMCA” and “5,6,7,8” by Steps (which by the way should totally come with a warning stating you must be able to sing extremely fast before attempting this song – I was losing my breath). Noraebang is such a laugh! It brings me right back to childhood, the days I spent in my room with a karaoke machine singing “Barbie Girl” or something equally lame. I am 100% sure it will become the thing I do when I want to do something fun but not splurge a whole load of money on a crazy night out!

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With Leenz singing a song for our Patty Jo! ❤

VR GAMES

Or virtual reality games for those not yet in touch with the modern world…

My co-workers invited me out with them one evening to just chill and spend time together away from work. We went for some food first and then headed in to the heart of Seomyeon for some fun. We started off with some shooting practice: a toy gun you aim and fire at targets to earn points, and if you reach a certain amount of points, you get to choose a little cuddly keyring. I slayed the game and bagged myself a smiley poo emoji keyring! Side note: anyone who says the smiley poo isn’t the best emoji around is either lying to themselves or has some serious issues! After the shooting practice, we headed to VR Playce: an awesome little second floor centre with different rooms where you enter your virtual reality! We got more shooting in during the first game, killing goblins before they attack a fortress with a bow and arrow. We played this for about 45 minutes, killing three quarters of the time we had paid for before deciding to switch it up and go for something different. The next game we played involved an elevator taking you up to the top of a building where a plank awaits you with a cake at the end! This game is certainly not the one for those who have a fear of heights! Luckily I’m good in that department and I managed to tip-toe my way towards the cake, picking it up in one piece, staggering back a little before plummeting to the ground below! Super crazy game but a lot of fun! We finished off our time at VR Playce with a bit of skiing: I have never taken on some slopes in real life but I was a pretty good skier in my virtual reality!

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Nice lil pic of smiley bae as unfortunately I have none of my VR experience!

So as you can tell my first 29 days in Busan have been food and fun filled! I cannot wait to spend another year or so here getting to know the ins and outs of Korean life, food, modern culture, history and everything else! I’ll keep you all posted!

Have you ever been to Busan? Is there anything you have done or tried in South Korea that you can recommend? Let me know in the comments! 😊

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The heart of Seomyeon!