Gwangjang market! #litlyfinSeoul

food, Travel

I am currently sat on a KTX back to Busan after embarking on a week long trip to Seoul. It was my second time visiting Korea’s capital city; a metropolis so alive and vibrant, full of exciting escapades, magnificent landscapes and opportunities to make friends. My week has been crammed with touristy site seeing, authentic Korean experiences as well as my first ever language exchange meet-up! I am in a little bubble of happiness right now, all a buzz with Hongdae’s imprint… of course Busan will always have my heart but I HIGH KEY love me some Seoul right now!

A personal favourite anecdote of my trip: the street food I devoured at Gwangjang market. Interestingly one of the first questions the natives ask all foreigners is “Do you like Korean food?”. Food is such an important element of the Korean culture, so many people I have met here are so proud of their nations best dishes and furthermore eating together is a social necessity. I always answer the question with a solidly enthusiastic “Hell yeahhhh!” to much surprise and glee. At the language exchange meet-up in Seoul, I was asked that very question and after giving my response, I was then asked if I had visited Gwangjang market yet to try the selection of food on offer there. I was thrilled to exclaim I had actually been there just the day before for a full on, three course culinary extravaganza!

An ahjumma prepping food at her stall!

First on the menu was 파전; 전 (jeon) in Korean means savoury pancake and 파 (pa) stands for spring onions (scallions to Americans). There are so many various different 전 however 파전 is the Korean go to on rainy days, always to be eaten whilst drinking 막갈리 (makgeolli). The day we visited Gwangjang market happened to be the rainiest day during our trip to Seoul so naturally 파전 was the way to go. The ahjumma we bought from was adorable; she flipped our 파전 in the pan and made it nice and crispy with a side dish of sliced green chillis swimming in soy sauce. It was a nice thick pancake, stuffed with not only spring onions but what I also believe to be Asian chives as well as potato. All that for 3,000 won (roughly £2.10)… such a steal!

I had a major hankering for 비빔밥 (bibimbap) that day, and after fulfilling the rainy tradition for 파전, I was a woman on a mission to find Korea’s staple rice dish. The food zone of Gwangjang stretches on and on, numerous stalls offering various versions of 떡볶이 (rice cakes in a spicy sauce), 순대 (blood sausage that is normally fried) and 만두 (dumplings). We were drawn to one lady’s stall in particular; I cannot tell you the reason why but I’m guessing it has something to do with the multitude of veggies she had lined up on display ready to pile on top of a bowl full of rice. We took a seat, ordered our 비빔밥 with a side order of 김치만두 (kimchi dumplings) and tucked in. The ahjumma again was adorable, refilling our bowl with different veggies once she saw us running low whilst also gasping in faux, jokey horror when she saw the amount of 고추장 (gochujang – red pepper paste) I squeezed out over my rice.

Loaded veggie 비빔밥!

We wanted to finish off our meal with 붕어빵 (bungeoppang); a fish shaped pancake stuffed with sweet red beans however we could not find any at Gwangjang and have since been told that they are normally more readily available during the winter months as a warming snack. We settled on 꽈배기 (kkwabaegi), twisted doughnuts, instead. The texture of the 꽈배기 is unlike the standard doughnut; it is more bready yet it is still light. I love buying these when they are straight out of the fryer, warm and super soft, coated in a thin layer of sugar for added sweetness. They are ridiculously cheap too; 1,000 won is all it costs to take you to Korean doughnut heaven!

Our bellies were fit to bust after all of the food we ate but every last morsel was super delicious! All in all everything cost us 15,000 won… 7,500 won each! £5.20 to all the Brits reading this!! 😱 If you’re ever in Seoul and fancy some street food then Gwangjang market is the place for you!

Have you ever been to Seoul? Did you go to Gwangjang for street food? Or is there somewhere else in Seoul that serves food just as good for a similar price? Let me know in the comments! 😄

Emma Jones’s Diary

Film, Travel

I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to the capital city of my country, London! 36 hours of film location exploring, phenomenal food and a whole load of fun. I have been to London numerous times and always forget just how much I bloody love Britain’s capital city! Such a vibrant, unique, colourful city! I set off from Manchester Piccadilly with my mum on the 4th of Feb at 3:30pm; just over two hours later, we arrived at Euston train station, updated our Oyster cards and jumped on the tube to check in to the Hub by Premier Inn based near St. James Park in Westminster. Two nights at this budget hotel cost us £143 altogether; such a steal for such a central location in London town considering my previous trips have had me fork out over £150 for two nights in pub hotels in both Greenwich and Acton. The room was extremely comfortable; it had a bed, a tv, one chair and a good-sized wet room… what more do you need?! We dumped our bags and headed out for some scran. I had heard about a burger joint called Honest Burgers in Soho so we took a stroll down Horses Guard Road, crossed the Mall and headed for an epic burger dinner. While walking we passed Piccadilly Circus; an iconic location home to the big advertisement screens seen in numerous films, Bend it like Beckham and Bridget Jones’s Diary, to name a couple! The restaurant itself is pretty small, probably seats about 20-30 people at one time but if it is busy, they take your number and call you when your table is ready, instead of having you queue. Luckily for us it wasn’t all full up so we were seated immediately. My mum ordered the chicken burger, a nice healthy option in comparison to the other sandwiches on the menu. I went for the special; a beast of a burger called the Disco Bistro! A massive beef patty garnished with pink onions and a pineapple, bacon jam; the perfect tangy, sweet companion!

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The exterior of Honest Burgers – Soho!

We planned to visit the South Korean embassy (the main reason for our trip to London) to sort out my visa for my impending year-long trip to Busan so we knew we would have an early start the next morning, so after being fed and watered, we headed back to our hotel for a good nights kip. After doing what needed to be done visa-wise the next day, it was time to explore! We had a fulfilling brekkie at a lovely, little place called the English Rose cafe & tea shop located in Westminster, a short walk away from Victoria Station. The cafe had a wonderful atmosphere, quaint decor, including an artificially lit fireplace, hanging teapots on display and a cute, little dresser with the blue and white China plates I’m sure most people have encountered in either their own kitchen or the home of a friend, and the food was delicious and reasonably priced!

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The interior of the English Rose cafe & tea room!

We spent the early afternoon in Camden, first wandering through the clothes market on the high street, before heading over to Camden Lock. Now if you have ever visited Afflecks Palace in Manchester and appreciated its unique character then you will LOVE Camden Lock! This place is full of little stalls, independent traders selling one-of-a-kind pieces. I spent a long time marvelling over artwork by a guy called Jeff Michalik (www.killerbunny.co.uk); he does prints of iconic characters from various films. I ended up purchasing nine different prints for £20; I got six Disney princesses (#disneyobsessed), one of Jason Voorhees, one of the sorting hat from Harry Potter and last but not least, one of the insanely cute droid, BB8! I cannot wait to frame them all and have them on display in my Busan accommodation; they will provide awesome splashes of colour on what I imagine will be bare, white walls! We strolled through the market stalls, admiring the products on offer; jewellery, cushions, bags, scarfs and other pieces of artwork before stopping at the Camden Market Photo Booth and failing at getting some pictures. We finished off our time at Camden Lock with some dutch pancakes smothered in melted nutella and chopped strawberries with hot drinks, a chai latte for me and a hot choccy for mum – all of which came to a tenner!

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The very open minded entrance to Camden Lock!

We hopped back on the tube and headed over to the Embankment stop; it was time to walk along the River Thames and spot the locations used in Love Actually and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The first location we tracked down was the benches at Gabriel’s Wharf. This location was used in Love Actually; it played host to the scene where Daniel (Liam Neeson) sits with his stepson, Sam (Thomas Sangster) to give him some love advice in regards to his seemingly unrequited crush on Joanna. These two characters and the storyline they share have always been my favourite part of Love Actually; I love the innocence of Sam and his feelings for his classmate and Daniel comes across as the sweetest father figure! I actually sat on the exact same bench patiently awaiting the arrival of Liam in the hopes he would give me some good life advice! Needless to say, he never arrived but a girl can still dream! We walked along the south bank a little further and stumbled across the scene where Mark (Andrew Lincoln), embarrassed by the fact his love for his best mate’s wife has just been revealed in the most awkward way possible, walks whilst gliding his hand across the stone wall between walkway and water. Naturally I reenacted his exact movements to the bemusement of my mum.

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Where are you, Liam Neeson?!

Even further along the south bank is Millennium Bridge, which any half decent Potter nerd will know is the bridge the villainous, evil Death Eaters destroy whilst covered with unknowing Muggles making their way to work at the beginning of the sixth Harry Potter film! It’s unique metal and persplex design isn’t exactly hard to recognise. I took it as the perfect opportunity to whip out the sorting hat print by Jeff Michalik I had bought earlier and take a snap! The best thing about strolling around London in search of filming locations is that you can just happen across them; you do not need to part with money in order to appreciate the structures, sites and scenes you see emblazoned on the big screen. There are sooooo many other locations I would love to visit, free of charge, in London that have been used in various films. St. Lukes Mews in Notting Hill is also featured in Love Actually, Borough Market which is used in Bridget Jones’s Diary and loads others but sadly I just did not have enough time on this particular trip but I’m sure I’ll be able to tick them off next time I visit London!

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Millennium Bridge featuring Jeff Michalik’s sorting hat print!

After our filming location expedition, we headed over to Mod in Leicester Square for a bite to eat. Mod is an awesome pizza place! They have various pizzas on the menu to choose from which you can personalise or you can choose to make one from scratch. All pizzas, regardless of add-ons or how many toppings you decide to make your own, cost only £7.87! The bases are thin and crispy, proper Italian style and there are endless sauce and topping options to choose from. I went for a garlic rub base, mozzarella and asiago cheese, pepperoni and spicy sausage, black olives with both a balsamic fig glaze and a pesto drizzle! So damn tasty!! For dessert we went to Bubblewrap Waffle in China town and shared a light and soft waffle cone, drizzled with white chocolate sauce and chopped strawberries.

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My personalised pizza at Mod!

With full bellies, it was time for our evening activity, the Jack the Ripper walking tour provided by Discovery Tours & Events. We had booked our tickets for a tenner each in advance online and we had to meet our tour guide at exit 4 of Aldgate East tube station, an easy ten minute journey on the District Line from Embankment. We checked in with our tour guide, Angie, and headed out with a sizeable group of about 25 people, for our two hour long walk around Whitechapel and Spitalfields, learning about the grizzly, gruesome murders committed by the famous, unknown assailant, Jack the Ripper. I can’t speak for my mum but I found this tour immensely interesting and unforgivably creepy with Angie only adding to the eeriness by handing out various photographs of the Ripper’s victims whilst describing their grotesque murders by deepening her voice and hitting the wooden doors of buildings dotted around the neighbourhoods we were roaming. Furthermore the tour has made me want to watch the first series of Whitechapel for the millionth time; a three part series which unravels the mystery of Jack the Ripper with a copycat killer committing similar crimes in the same locations. For anyone who hasn’t seen this show, watch it! It is available on Netflix and spawned three additional series, the second of which focuses on the Kray twins.

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The location in Mitre Square where the body of the fourth Ripper victim, Catherine Eddowes, was found…

London is an epic city, it has something for everyone and I am sure as hell going to be visiting it more often when I return home after my time abroad! Is there any other filming locations you know of, that are free of charge, in the city of London? Are there any other walking tours you can recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

IndiEmma Jones and her Jordanian adventure!

Travel

In October 2017, I visited my family in Amman, Jordan and while there, we planned a road trip together. We decided to leave the capital late in the evening on a Thursday, drive down to the Dead Sea and camp for the night with an assortment of food including hotdogs and s’mores. We arrived at our destination at about 10pm; we set up our tent, lay down blankets, got a roaring fire going and spent the next few hours in perpetual awe. For anyone who isn’t aware, the Dead Sea is situated at the lowest point on planet earth, and where we camped was a ridge stretching out from the main road, which overlooked the salty sea in all its glory. Although we didn’t have a view of the sea at that current moment, we could hear the serene waves rippling beneath us. It was the perfect background music to the view we did have: a smooth, velvety, deep blue night sky laced with silver, sequin-like stars. It was the perfect picture: and just to lie there, underneath such a bed of stars was an experience in itself. Unfortunately neither my phone nor my DSLR could capture such simplistic beauty so I have no photographs to share however I cannot recommend doing this or something similar more. You will not be disappointed and the reminder of just how stunning our world is will stay with you forever.

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Our view of the Dead Sea in the morning

The next morning, we woke at about 5am; we had a long journey ahead of us, an almost four hour car journey to Petra, the Rose City. I couldn’t wait to see the famous red-stone city with my own eyes, walk the paths of historic bedouins and see the filming locations for numerous movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We parked up and started our Petra journey at the ticket booth. A one-day ticket will cost you 50 Jordanian Dinars which is the equivalent to about 50 Great British Pounds; sounds steep but is well worth it! Once our tickets were checked, we were on our way, on a great stretch of sandy path where we first stumbled across the carved architecture of an ancient civilisation. We were enamoured by the detailed building face in front of us; little did we realise that the best was yet to come. We continued on the path, weaving our way through multi-coloured walls, lined with man-made water pipes and dams.

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Colours of the sandstone

Now, have you ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you have, then you will remember the part filmed in Petra perfectly; the stand-out being when Indy is riding horseback with his companions through a sandy landscape when they come across the secret temple. Furthermore have you ever watched a film, pictured visiting one of the locations used and hoping your experience will be as dramatic as it is depicted? I have and my experience of Indy’s secret temple, the heart of Petra was everything I dreamed and more. After leaving the ticket checkpoint and walking the windy path for what seemed like forever but could not have been more than twenty minutes, we finally came to the end of our walk and there it was. The intricacy, the artistry, the monumental sight of one of the seven wonders of the world; the Treasury of Petra.

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The Treasury at Petra

I cannot put in to words nor emphasise the astounding beauty of this detailed piece of architecture; again, in the same way as the Dead Sea sky, it is something you have to experience first hand to believe. Throngs of people flock to Petra each and every year and I just know the vast majority will have been as taken aback as I was once they first laid eyes upon such craftsmanship. I just stood and stared; at every pillar, at every tiny pattern, at every piece of the sand stone structure in front of me. I didn’t think I’d seen anything so mesmerising but then I hadn’t seen the rest of the city. After a short camel ride in front of the Treasury, we set off once more, following the path to the right-hand side. We came across masses of carved-out caves, which if you have seen An Idiot Abroad, you will know serve as the homes of those who still live in Petra. We ventured in to one, and the colours emblazoned across the walls are like a watercolour painting. Their smoothness, their vividness, like a stroke of a paintbrush across a sandy canvas. After exploring the caves, we decided to go to the Monastery which is up high, a trek of 900+ steps. Donkeys are not in short supply in Petra, so we hired four for 20 Jordanian Dinars and climbed up to see the structure which Bumblebee knocked through in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. My ride was a great companion, aptly named Jackass which, to those who know me well, made us quite the duo.

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One of the many donkeys of Petra

The Monastery is just as beautiful as the Treasury, delicately carved out of a stone wall and I had my own Karl Pilkington moment, sat in a cave directly opposite it, revelling in its splendour. Karl’s show may have been named An Idiot Abroad but he could not have been more correct in stating it is better to sit in the cave and look out on something so spectacular than it is to live in the luxury looking out on how the other half live. I could have stayed there forever but by this point, the time was nearly 4:30pm and we had a five hour drive back to Amman to conquer, so we headed off back in the direction we came. I napped most of the journey home, intermittently waking up to browse through the many photos I took during our adventure. I’ll leave you with this one of me with my cousins, taken on a polaroid camera in front of the Treasury of Petra.

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The four of us!

Interestingly enough, upon my return home to the UK, my friend tagged me in a Facebook post by Will Smith. A similar picture to the one of me and my cousins but it was him with his cast-mates: the live-action Aladdin due to be released some time in 2019 was being filmed near Petra so Will planned a trip there for the cast and crew!

*If you have any questions regarding Petra, how tos, etc. then please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you!