Vilnius, Lithuania

I went into this city completely blind. Johnny and I went on a week vacation with his family and I knew they had a lot of things planned. All that has done though is left me with an incredible thirst to visit again. The city we stayed in, Vilnius, is the capital of this small country. A small country that actually used to be huge. We had a walking tour of questionable quality, but it did make me curious to discover more about this country.

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We stayed at the beautiful Kempinski, right in the center of the city. I enjoyed my mornings sitting on a balcony, espresso in hand, waiting for the rest of the city to wake up. In Beijing when I get up at 6:30 in China I feel like a slacker, the sun rises early and so does everyone else. In Vilnius, the sun ALSO rises early but it takes until around seven am to see anyone. This allowed me to go on some amazing walks around the city by myself. I have spent so many summers seeking out the grungy side of Geneva, and the city center of Vilnius had that perfect mix of old and new town that it inspired me to look the artsy side here too.

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The artsy part of town usually starts with coffee and ends with a dive bar; of these things Vilnius has plenty. I didn’t look up anything before I arrived but one walk around the city and I already had several bars and coffee shops for me to head to. StrangeLove, TasteMap, and Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories, those are probably my top coffee shops and they definitely deserve their own post (oh here is it’s post, click!).

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There are quite a few interesting things about this city. For one, the building where their president is had no obvious security? Instead they had lights all over the building celebrating 100 years regained after World War I, tourists were taking photos with the installments in front of the building. It was also weirdly new looking, except for the very specific parts of exposed brick on every three buildings. These were supposed to bring character to the buildings and show that they are the REAL buildings that used to be there, just redone.

There is a lot of amazing history in Lithuania. KGB museums, holocaust museums, a palace museum that just opened new rooms. Another option is a free walking tour, a company I found online but wasn’t able to take a tour with was Vilnius with locals. They have a ghost tour, food tour, jewish history tour, and even more that seem really interesting. Next time I visit, and there will be a next time, I want to see everything I can here.

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Some things I found in this city that surprised me were a lot of gelato, tons of amber in many forms, and weird weird alcohols. We went to a cave bar with 80 beers all from Lithuania. The most exciting part of the city though was the coffee. Next week expect details about my favorite coffee shops here, along with a million photos of plants. Coffee and plants! my two passions!

What coffee shops have you been to recently? Any new ones?

Les Champions du Monde

I was lucky enough to be in Paris when France won the World Cup. It was pretty amazing.

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My boyfriend, his siblings, and I ran off the Paris metro into the streets filled with people shouting, climbing, celebrating. We walked to the louvre, saw fireworks explode, waved flags, and cheered for the two stars this country has now earned.

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Allez les bleus! I was able to bring out my terrible french on the subway to ask those watching the game what the score was. Being in Paris for a night was only a small part of our vacay to Lithuania (oh yeah, I went to lithuania btw, more on that later), but it ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

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June Photo Dump (so sorry it is late!)

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Happy July! How has this happened? May was fast, June was the slowest month in the world. I honestly have no idea where the year is going though, considering I’m posting this two weeks into JULY. June felt pretty wild, I took two trips, explored many new places in Beijing, and I started working with some friends on a graphic design project.

July has already been wonderful, as I spent a little over a week of it in Lithuania! I went with Johnny and his family. They are from Lithuania, his grandpa was there until he was eight years old, then they left because of WWII and the soviet take over.

Some June highlights have to be my trip to Hong Kong where I was able to see friends who used to live in the same STATE as me but I never saw them, and by chance we were in Hong Kong at the same time. I love how small the world is sometimes. I also went on a solo trip to Seoul. I know that means I doubled up on cities but it just feels like a place I need to visit forty times.

I also camped right outside the Great Wall and then hiked eight miles of it. I’m going to include a few of those photos here, but to get the full scoop I’m making a whole other post so you can do it on your own!

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We discovered a coffee shop and roaster near our house, Metal Hands. This is located near Wangjing Soho. So in a fifteen minute bike ride we can enjoy amazing coffee and breakfast from some talented baristas. We purchased a two pound bag of espresso for Johnny’s mom. They sell smaller bags of their coffee and huge ones of their espresso. I think in China it’s not yet a common thing for people to make their own espresso drinks at home so the big bags of coffee are probably used for other stores to serve the espresso.

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One of the most exciting things that happened in June was the discovery of a new grocery market! This place is amazing. It has a lot of western staple foods, like salsa, romaine lettuce, fruit loops and CHEESE, and some other non-staple foods like coconut milk and chia seeds. Also the CHEAPEST nuts. It’s amazing. I might give you guys a post about the different grocery shopping options I have here? Yes?

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HONG KONG

 

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A very quick trip to Hong Kong, expect mostly photos and small tidbits. Our flight left Beijing at seven am on Saturday and touched down around eleven. We then had the AWESOME experiences of realizing Didi, which is china’s version of UBER, didn’t work the same here. I was told we could use wechat everywhere but guess what: ya can’t.

After checking into the hostel we went out on the street. I honestly felt so overwhelmed by Hong Kong. When researching things, there were so many comments about different areas and if you are or aren’t on the island, if you are going to a beach or a bar, I just was overwhelmed. So we wung it. or winged it. Whichever is correct, that’s what we did. I knew there were cool streets, things to look at, things to eat and figured we would just find them!

I actually was lucky enough to have friends in town for the one night we were in Hong Kong. We learned about the relationship between Hong Kong and China, the political climate, and if they can tell when people come form China, whether from Shezngen, Beijing, or somewhere deep in the Yunnan province. We went to an afternoon tea, which was awesome. There we had egg tarts, pineapple bread, and lemon tea. When you go to Hong Kong and have lemon tea, be sure to squish the lemons at the bottom of the glass and then mix all the lemon juice around your drink. Super refreshing in the insanely humid city.

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We walked through the streets for a while until I declared it way too humid for the outside world. Then we went to the Golden Computer store and Sim City and looked at millions of wires, cords, laptops, computers, dvds, and cameras. I almost bought this film camera but decided against it until I could figure out how to get film developed in Beijing.

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Over all, my Hong Kong trip showed me that I really do value nature and water, two things I thought I wouldn’t miss while living in a city. It did however make me realize that even though Beijing is one of the most populated cities in the world, it doesn’t feel that way. Hong Kong felt PACKED. Walking down the street, going to the metro, it was a struggle. Maybe its just down to the fact that the street sizes were different? Not sure.

Johnny and I also have come to rely on pictures on menu’s when traveling. This usually works out great, and we can use the little bits of Mandarin that we know to communicate further. In Hong Kong, every speaks Cantonese. So we were back to square one. For dinner we went to this place that had huge lines so we knew it would be good. We waited, we had sidewalk drinks, we waited more. When we finally sat down, it became clear to us that it was some sort of build your own noodle dish… with no pictures. neither of us had brought our phones and we ended up just guessing on what to put in our dish. It was delicious, but also kind of scary! I would recommend this adventure brought on by silly choices, 10/10 would do again.

Now it’s summer here in Beijing! June has become a bit more humid no where near Seoul or Hong Kong though. I’m appreciating the dry heat and the abundance of watermelons. Enjoy this picture of my dinner while I write this:

 

What I planned to do in Paris but didn’t

So last October, my boyfriend and I celebrated our four year anniversary. To celebrate we were going to go to Paris in January for a five day vacation. We had been before so this was a chance to go and see not just the typical touristy things. I found airbnbs, I had friends in the city, I looked up things to do! He even found flights ROUND TRIP FROM CINCINNATI TO PARIS FOR LIKE THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

But we didn’t go. Instead we (obviously) moved to China. Which is great and fun in it’s own right, but I have so much stuff just written down on my laptop for Paris! So here we go, my list of places in Paris I looked up, but didn’t get to see.

And this is great because now you guys can sound off in the comments on what you love to do in Paris and I can come back to this list when I finally go!

 

Paris foods

soul kitchen:  English speaking cafe for when you need wifi and to feel confident with your words.

Address: 33 Rue Lamarck, 75018 Paris, France

hardware societe: Amazing brunch restaurant. Like many wonderful places, it has a nice Australian spin on it.

Address: 10 Rue Lamarck, 75018 Paris, France

Le treize: Great for beer, or so I have heard. I walked by this once when it was closed and saw a lot of plants.

Address: 13 Rue Dussoubs, 75002 Paris, France

boneshaker: This place has doughnuts!

Address: 77 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris, France

cerwood terrasse: I’ve been told its a good place for a snack or a coffee. When it’s time to rest your feet, head here for people watching. OR just sit at any cafe, get a noisette and pull out a note book.

Address: 8 Rue Jean-Baptiste Dumay, 75020 Paris, France

the hood paris: A place to chill, feel like you can spend a long time here. I also heard they may have open mic nights?

Address: 80 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011 Paris, France

le 2 au coin: Is this a florist or a cafe? If a place makes me ask that question, I want to stay there foreverrrr. Also vegetarian friendly.

Address: 7 rue Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris, France

lockwood cafe:

Address: 73 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris, France

The thing about making ‘guides’ for Paris.. it’s like everywhere is going to be good or interesting. For those who are not adventurous enough to try random restaurants, I hope this list will help you find things you like!

May Photo Dump

Didn’t I just do an April Photo dump? I know it was mainly about Seoul, but still. I’m actually leaving for Seoul AGAIN in less than five days. Time Flies.IMG_3349.jpg

May started with a weekend trip to Tianjin. Wandering streets that were vaguely European and staying in an expensive hotel, Tianjin became a city I want to visit again solely for feeling luxe.

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Giant malls are still everywhere I go in China, but here they seemed to be even more of a date night or night life spot than the ones I have frequented in Beijing. Clothing store with dirt cheap tshirts, the same design on twenty different colors, and sizes that intimidate me enough to just stick to H&M for now.

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My apartment is on the bottom floor, and the windows are basically pointing toward other walls. My friends however, have a great view that reminds me that we live in a city. Maybe my bedroom in on the bottom floor, but it’s the bottom floor of a 25 floor building. While driving at night from one location to another I can’t help to do anything but look at the lights, the characters, the signs for things I can’t understand and feel happy.

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The Beijing summer is starting, which means I want to be outside all the time in the warmth of the sun, but not the smog. I have started running outside when I have a mask on and there is a low pollution count. The park near my home is amazing, and I’m so thankful I have seen Beijing grow from a dirty cold winter landscape to a blossomed, lush, green landscape. I can’t wait to return to the big tourist spots now that everything is GREEN.

May was the only month I didn’t take a trip in. I have trips planned until NOVEMBER. Places in Asia, eastern Europe, a trip back home for a bit. So I hope I’ll be able to keep up with everything. As much as I love just travel blogging, I hope to just regular blog. Like maybe I’ll write about how the Beijing water ruined my hair and how I saved. Maybe something about how I had to adjust my cooking style in China and that I FINALLY can eat spicy food.

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Making Dumplings and Friends

So it was a normal Friday night, except I live in China and my landlord, his wife, and daughter came over to teach us how to cook dumplings, or as they are called here, jiao zi.

This magical thing happens when you move somewhere that operates in a language you don’t know: You figure out that people are really similar all over the world. For example, most dads are going to be proud of their five year old daughters. Most moms are going to tell you about a recipe their grandma told them, and most kids will draw a picture and give it to you. So, these people who we have only met once when they fixed our bathroom came over to show us that even though their english was broken, they were willing to go the extra mile to make us feel welcome.

Our landlord has owned our apartment for years and used to live their himself. I don’t understand the way china does real estate. He said his English name is Michael because he liked Michael Jackson/Jordan. He, his wife Harriet and daughter Carol came over to help us make a traditional meal. We bought flour, and they brought every thing else.

When they showed up they had gifts which made my heart feel like it could spill over. Two drawings from Carol, a hair catcher for our bathroom drain (something I tried to order online but just couldn’t figure out), and a silk fan from The Forbidden City. All these things, and they were helping us make dinner?! Amazing.

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First, they showed us how to make the dough which was just flour and water. You get a bowl of flour and add water little by little while gently kneading it. After you get a dough, let it rest for thirty minutes. While it was resting we talked about places to visit in the city, how Harriet and Michael had met, and how amazing Carol is at five years old. They honestly seemed so curious as to how comfortable we were in the apartment, did we like china, what were the differences from America. I mean we were curious too! They told us about how the streets and bus stops were named and we live right off of Safe World bus stop, so that is comforting.

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After the dough came the filling which they had prepared. Harriet and Carol were busting out these jiao zi, it was amazing. Johnny and I struggled to keep up with their pace but eventually I made some nice looking ones. They were very kind, it made me feel comfortable with making mistakes. Our living room floor is covered with flour, but it didn’t matter to me.

After a while the jiao zi were made, and it was time to boil them and eat! We set out plates, vinegar, and bowls. The delicious jiao zi were gone in seconds, but Harriet kept making more for us to keep in our freezer. She said we can freeze them and keep them for month, or we can cook them the next morning. This meal is typically a family event where everyone takes part in making the food. You could tell which ones Johnny and I made, but that didn’t mean they were any less delicious.

I feel so much more comfortable in my own kitchen now after seeing someone else use it effectively. I have looked up recipes for sweet potato pancakes, how to make street food at home, and now know how to make my own fresh noodles. Like how cool is it to know I can just MAKE noodles? This is 100% a night I won’t forget, when where we were shown incredible kindness in our Chinese home. It makes me feel even better about out choice to come here.

Hey when I come back to the states, jiao zi party anyone?

 

Cities on my radar (2)

My last cities on my radar post was not accomplished at all. I mean, I got distracted. I moved to China. So now that I am in eastern Asia, I have a whole new list of places I want to see. These are mainly cities that I wouldn’t have thought about before being in such close proximity to them! Now that I am traveling with a bit more frequency, I hope to keep up this series more.

Busan, South Korea After visiting Seoul, I really feel connected to South Korea. This city has beaches, mountains, temples, and probably a good bike rental system which really gets me going. Some friends tell me to go to Busan, get a beer on the beach and drop some soju in it. Which sounds really fun and wild, but I’m a bit more interested in the mountain views, winding roads, and tiny historic towns. Either way, we know Busan has a lot to offer.

Hong Kong I will soon be checking this one off my list. A more tropical city, a little more expensive than China, but still very interesting. It will be cool to see how different it really is from mainland China. I have heard that it’s really boring, but also that is has some of the best juice anyone can ask for. And who doesn’t love juice?

Osaka, Japan I have not been to Japan yet, but I am extremely excited to go soon. Osaka seems like a great place to start. The seafood, the history of the temples, and then there are the cool dotonbori and and namba areas. Neon lights, street food, and hip shopping.

Cambodia Before moving to China my knowledge about the history of Southeast Asia was slim. I had watched the Ken Burns documentaries about the Vietnam war this past fall. Of course, I had taken history classes in high school about world history but in college I mainly studied west civ. Being in China though, you kind of have to face the facts that you walk by people who have had a harder life than you and lived through things you only heard about from a text book.

So I want to visit every country I can to meet the people, learn about the stories. Cambodia was where I wanted to start because the ruins of Angkor Wat are fascinating and huge, the people there are working so hard to rebuild their country. I will not go there until I read the book First They Killed My Father.

Manazita, Oregon Yeah, super random because I’m currently in China but this place is on my mind. I met someone who took a van trip down the pacific coast and it just made my desire for the west coast even stronger. I have never been! After living in a city like Beijing the smallness of Manazita might be perfect for a trip.

 

So let’s see if I actually make it to any of these places this time! I hope I can cross off at least a few of them, I mean why live in Asia if you aren’t going to see Asia?

Our half-cooked Seoul itinerary

I made a super chatty post about Seoul and my feelings about traveling and moving for my photo dump this month. That made me want to give you a bit more of a “just facts” post about my seoul trip. Maybe you hate it, maybe you like the chatty versions! Either way this should help fill in the gaps if you felt like you missed all the information.

THURSDAY

Arrive at airbnb by 3:30

Daelim Museum

  • Address: South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu, 통의동 35-1 대림미술관
  • Directions from Airbnb
  • Walk to Namsan Gymnasium and take Bus 402
  • Take it ten stops to Sejong Center
  • Walk around ten minutes north to the Museum.

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Bear Cafe

  • Address: 24 Jahamun-ro 24-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
  • Directions from Museum
  • Walk toward Jahamun-ro, the main street.
  • Walk North, then turn right on Jahamun-ro 24-gil and then follow the road
  • Arrive at Bear Cafe.
  • Relax

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DINNER:

Nuenejip

  • Must order: soy sauce ddeokbokki, with two additional dishes.

We totally did not find this dinner place. Instead we went to a Thai restaurant in the same area. It was right next to a sushi place, but man we made the BEST choice. It was delicious, the owner was wonderful. I felt really treated.

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BAR

Volstead

  • Jazz bar/speakeasy

We DID find this one, it was amazing. You head down some stairs into a dimly lit room. the music alternated from Santana to Drake but the vibe still worked. A hand written menu, a sketchy portrait of Volstead on the wall, and some antique wall hangings made this bar feel less dive-y and more cozy.

Thursday was the only day I really planned. The other days I just picked out options for us to see what worked best. I didn’t know how easy it was to get around the city or how expensive it would be. It turned out to be very easy. When you arrive to Seoul, head to a 7eleven and ask for t-money cards. We put around 15000 on them, and they cost 4000. They lasted us the whole weekend, it was super convenient.

So next you will find a list of some places I found that I wanted to go, some I managed to get to but some I didn’t.

BREAKFAST

BIM BOM

  • Opens: 10:00 am
  • Very close to airbnb, great reviews on brunch.

We went here because it was RIGHT across the street from our airbnb and MAN it was DELISH. I miss yogurt a ton so I had a granola yogurt bowl, and Johnny had this intense egg, bacon, arugula crepe situation. Obsessed.

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LittleNeck

  • Opens: 10:00 am
  • Fresh food, breakfast, lunch, and dinner options highly rated! Small location.

Plant

  • Opens: 11:00 am
  • Vegan cafe, great reviews. Good for a meatless option.

Hell Cafe

  • Opens: 8:00 am
  • Great lattes and coffee, finishes latte at table!

LUNCH

OTTO Kimbap

  • Opens: 9:00 am
  • Kimbap location recommended by caricakes, good location to walk around.

We did eat at OTTO Kimbap and the area was amazing. We walked around, saw a few vintage stores, a record store. A lot of the stores opened later but it was still pretty cool. Caricakes, who is a youtuber, recommended this place once while walking around Itaewon.

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Root

  • Opens: ??
  • Main Ingredient is AVOCADO. Health focused meals.

Bad Farmers

  • Opens: 10:00 am
  • Health focused food, lacks taste or reviews often say small portion for the price.

The Veggie Eating Bear

  • Opens:???
  • Vegetarian bibimbap! Located in Hong-dae so you know it’s cool.

CAFES

Meerkat Cafe

  • Opens: 12:00 pm
  • Um, it has a meerkat and a fox??

Thanks Nature Cafe

  • Opens: 11:00 am
  • HAS SHEEP

We went to this cafe, it was in Hongdae where we were doing some window shopping (turned into real shopping, oops). It was really cute. The cafe was a little busy so the sheep seemed really tired and overwhelmed but CUTE CUTE CUTE.

WATCO

  • Opens: 10:00 am
  • Beautiful exterior, lots of good coffee reviews.

AFTERHOURS

Strange fruit

  • Opens: ???
  • Bar and concert venue

NEIGHBORHOODS

Naeja-dong

  • Area near art museum on list
  • Possible date: Thursday?

Sangsu-dong

  • Area near water by Hong-dae
  • Possible date: Saturday

Yennam-dong

  • Area in the top of Hongdae
  • Possible date: Saturday

Gugro-sil

  • Area over the river
  • Possible date: Friday

 

 

Seoul &; photo dump

I’m currently writing at a desk in my fancy hotel room in Tianjin. It’s so strange that I never find time to write about my trips until I’m on another one. It’s been almost three weeks since my long weekend in Seoul, but I loved it so much I have thought about it almost every day since. I’m going to use my April photo dump to gush about Seoul and how beautiful it was and then write a small travel guide from my trip in another one.

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We had a flight at around 10 am, and a week before the trip the weather was beautiful, 70’s, sunny, tee shirt and shorts weather. The weekend of the trip however: rainy, cold, near 40’s. Seriously, April? We packed for the weather, even though I stubbornly choose to pack a sweater and rain coat instead of a winter coat. This mainly just lead to me purchasing a much needed jean jacket (because who doesn’t need a jean jacket?) and taking photos where I was actually pretty cold but acting like I was not.

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After we landed in Incheon, we took a train/subway to our Airbnb (I loved our Airbnb, to see where we stayed click HERE). After we dropped off our bags, it was around 3 or 4 pm so we went right out to the Daelim museum, there was an exhibit where everything was made out of paper. It was pretty interesting, by the end you kind of forget you that everything is paper. After that we walked around and wandered to Bear Cafe. This adorable place will be beautiful in sunny weather. It was peaceful in the rain as well. I felt happy to just stare at the leaves reacting to the weight of the rain on them.

After Bear cafe we stopped for some wine, went home, got ready for dinner, then headed out again. I had picked a place for dinner in Itaewon, which is the area we stayed in, but we couldn’t find it. So instead we found a Thai place that I swear is not on any map, but it was so good. I wrote a little bit about it in my quick update blog, the owner was so nice, gave us wine on the house because it paired well, a small appetizer and a small dessert. This all took me by surprise because we hadn’t found any of those small customer service moments in China.

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SEOUL
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The next day we woke up at 8m which I guess was too early for Seoul. We had coffee at the only coffee shop we found that was open (to see all the closed ones, view the previous post), but I loved the design of it. In the middle, a big table with tons of magazines and books about travel, fashion, and mindfullness. On the walls prints from a featured artist made me feel appreciate of my appear and all women’s, I even bought stickers of her work and took a card so I could remember to buy prints later. The owner had fresh cookies being baked, a few regular customers came in with dogs, children, or just a few kind words. It’s nice to be around people who care about coffee and people.

After this cafe, we headed to BIM BOP for breakfast, I had read a few reviews of this place since it was near our airbnb and it lived up to the hype for sure. All the food we had was amazing, there was a clean decor, a featured Egg, and a great menu. I took a couple photos of food there and I am not ashamed. Like LOOK at that egg, bacon, crepe situation?? There was a smoothie bowl place near BIM BOP and we didn’t get a chance to visit it, but it looked super good. If you go, take pictures and send them to me. IMG_3007.jpg

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The thing about Seoul. It’s not just one pretty thing, it’s like several. It’s layers, there is a foreground, a mid-ground, and a background. All wrapped up in one beautiful scene. I was mainly walking around the winding roads of Itaewon, and I know that’s some parts are touristy or clubby areas, but it felt nice. And then there was this random bear in a park?

We wondered parks, neighborhoods, bought face masks, walked up giant hills that made me nervous to fall down. I know that I like to plan ahead of a trip to find the coolest places with the best coffee. I felt like I didn’t need to do that with Seoul and when I return I won’t. It was so wonderful just to wander around.

The last night we went to a place called MOW MOW and it was really great. It had an awesome view of the city, the food was amazing, I am running out of adjectives. This place makes their own Makgeolli, which is a milky, sparkling rice wine? This place apparently makes some of the best. We actually asked about it and got confused because of the language barrier, so we didn’t try it. Next time though! We have to get it, and so do you!

After that dinner we wandered more, found a dessert cafe called big step? I think it was big step? The front of the cafe had three big steps up to the counter, with comfy looking bean bag chairs for the patrons to lounge on. There they had extremely gorgeous looking desserts, we took two, read a magazine article about Nicki Minaj and watched the cute couples passing by the big windows.

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I really liked how Seoul made me feel. I was excited by everything I saw. Moving to Beijing has been interesting because I so desperately want to feel settled and to be in a routine. I don’t want to think of it as a vacation all the time. But it kind of is? I’m in this massive city where I need to explore. If I lived in New York City, would I just want to cook dinner all the time at home, or would I want t go out for drinks at a new place? Also there is the conversation of what is the REAL Beijing. Am I living in the Western Beijing? The Historic Beijing? I don’t know!

Even though I want to keep exploring Eastern Asia outside of Beijing, it will be important for me to try and force myself to explore this city as well. If you have any Beijing or Seoul recommendations, please leave them below!