The following morning, The Bard and I wasted no time checking which café was open. We returned to the 1+1 Café for another satisfying and highly caffeinated experience.
Afterward, The Bard wanted some alone time and Sugar felt better, so four of us made our first move of the day to Haeundae Beach.
I visited Haeundae in November for the Rugby Trip. However, its beachfront restaurants and nostalgic California feeling made it feel brand new. Upon arrival, I made the decision to ditch the diet.
“Fasting is dumb,” I thought.
“You’ll be sorry,” Anxiety-Brain warned. I should have listened.
My first stop was Daiso, where I found some Lotte 72% cocoa cubes, some peanut butter Oreos, and a box of Tim Tams. When I cheat, I cheat hard.
As we walked down the main thoroughfare towards the beach, we came across the Fuzzy Navel, a Mexican-inspired brunch restaurant. Any restaurant that involves both “Mexican” and “brunch” proves irresistible for our group. We were not disappointed.
The portions were substantial and the musical vibe was en pointe. EDM and trance-inspired hip-hop made for a relaxed atmosphere to pass a Saturday morning. We chowed down on nachos, tacos, and French fries with no regrets (yet).
As my friends continued toward the beach, I was ready for (more) dessert. Actually, it wasn’t about being ready, it was about seeing a hot-ddeok stand and insisting that my stomach make room.
If I had no willpower, body shape goals, or nutritional knowledge, I would eat hot-ddeok until I was a bathroom-scale-breaking no-teeth-having physician-disregarding insulin-injecting sugar whore. A classic Korean dessert item, hot-ddeok is ubiquitous in Korea during the winter season. It is a deep fried rice pancake filled with molten honey and nuts traditionally coated with a sweet, nutty flour. The first bite always burns (but it hurts so good).
On the beach, I opened my Tim Tams and munched in ignorant bliss. My friends’ admonitions could not deter me. However, the chocolate-coated cookies did not distract me from the beautiful view. It was awesome relaxing on the beach during the cold months before throngs of tourists turn Haeundae into the equivalent of an overcrowded urine-soaked public pool.
One gentleman swam in the water and then proceeded to perform Tai Chi shirtless. We tipped our hats to him (though none of us had a brim).
Next on our list was the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple – a seaside Buddhist refuge. Potato recommended it (she recommends a good 80% of the sites we visit). I stocked up on candy bars and snacked all the way.
After a subway and taxi ride, we encountered the sweet serenity of the temple. Stacks of rocks and statues populated the pristine seaside landscape. I even felt compelled to bow to one Buddha statue. Pictures flooded my phone (which I’m sure you’ve seen).
After the temple, we decided to roll into Lotte Mall. The absurd scale of this complex blew my mind. Not only did this place have a Lotte Mart (essentially a Korean Wal-Mart), but it also boasted an outlet for almost any brand one could imagine. I was disinterested in clothing and shockingly interested in food, so I made my way to Lotte Mart and munched on a Korean corn dog.
Leaving the mall, we crossed the street straight into the tail-end of some kind of festival. It appeared to be a christening party for a new commercial development. However, I had no real idea. I just knew they had street meat – chicken skewers to be precise. It was spicy. I thanked my lucky stars that The Bard had taught me to close my mouth and breathe through my nose to alleviate the burn. This time it didn’t hurt so good.
At this point, my pedometer was well north of 15,000 steps. We decided to return to the apartment for a brief rest before gearing up for dinner.
For dinner, we elected to try a different level of the food court at the Lotte Department Store (the place is massive, sporting a two-floor food court and a ninth floor dedicated entirely to restaurants). Potato found some phở, Sugar and The King dined on an upscale brand of Chinese food related to P.F. Changs, and I ate (surprise) kimbap along with a delicious raw salmon rice bowl.
Then it finally hit me.
I had eaten too much.
“Duh,” said Anxiety-Brain.
“Don’t care,” I retorted. “Too much pain. I can’t hear you.”
Sugar and The King were in similar shape. We decided to walk around a bit and eventually meander our way back to the apartment. I laid down for what I can only call a digestion nap.
Later, I re-joined the group watching some Korean music talent show (they are very popular here). I didn’t much understand what was happening, but some parts were really funny (like when you have to guess if the next singer will be amazing or tone-deaf (the tone-deaf ones are hilarious)).
As we settled in for the evening in the oven (I mean the loft), my rebelling stomach forbade me to sleep. This indirectly voluntary insomnia proved to produce interesting and fruitful conversation spanning topics from education to psychology to (for some reason) me getting married off to a variety of suitors.
By Sunday morning, I was ready to go home. After a much-needed (though at times regrettable) vacation from healthy eating and exercise, I was ready to return to the kitchen and the gym.
I couldn’t imagine how my travel mates (who had traveled for at least four days before this) felt. It was a quiet bus ride (a goddamn five-hour bus ride). You could hear a mouse fart if a mouse could fart louder than a bus engine.
Despite falling off the habit wagon for several days, I felt quiet contentment as Sugar and I rode the local bus from Mokpo to Namak. Winter classes taxed my willpower (mainly by challenging me to stay busy), and I missed my friends. It had been several weeks. However, this trip reminded me of a lovely truth – if you really care about people, you can always meet up and act as if no time passed at all.
A rare picture of my gluttonous ways. The King was not amused.
If I ate that much and worked out 3 hours a day (with the help of anabolic steroids), I could look like this.
Sometimes I feel too tall for my own good. I gotta lean in to make it less obvious.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of this place.
Horses love hot-ddeok.
I question everything about this statue.
Not the worst view to appreciate while sipping a coffee and writing a blog post at Kenya Espresso in Mokpo. I love this city.