MOMOS Coffee

MOMOS has made quite the name for themselves more or less establishing themselves as the gold standard for coffee in Busan, even some cafes in Seoul go to them to be supplied with coffee apparently. It’s way too much of a speculation however if MOMOS created the trend in Busan of having three types of espresso, but they definitely partake in that trend. The grounds that they occupy is also huge, with a roastery and bakery on premises. If you want to know why Busan’s coffee scene is a bit different, you can probably see why when you go to MOMOS.

doors

inside

MOMOS is a bit far out, but probably not too bad for most people visiting Busan because it’s easily accessible by the subway, it’s just about 30 minutes from Busan station. It’s also close to Pusan National University, which means there are a lot of spots to hang not too far away. The sad part about this is that I was only able to try one of their types of espresso, and I went with an Ethiopia Single Origin. Yes, it’s true that it will probably change when you go there, but I do have good reasons for it. First, if I’m Spiderman, having a good Ethiopian Espresso was my radioactive spider bite. Second, Single Origin Espresso is hard to pull off, and according to some of my friends at the Stumptown Brew Bar (RIP) Ethiopian coffees are among the hardest. For most of the espresso world, something like Ethiopia would take up only about 5% of a blend whereas something like Brazil would take the bulk. It’s not perfect, but pulling off a good SOE shows more skill than a blend.

spro

roaster

So this Single Origin Ethiopia had a medium to light body and was quite dusty. Not dusty in a dust sense, dusty like dusty chocolate, you could feel the powdery espresso beans that it came from. It was of course quite fruity but also a bit brown sugary as well. I know I’m not usually this concise, so please take it for the fact that it was well balanced.

bakery

statue

Considering its hugeness, it also has a god amount of other drinks and pastries for your non-coffee friends. It also has a lot of seating, you could have several parties there (except don’t because I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate that). The grounds are pretty awesome too and well worth a look around, the roasters were even nice enough to let me (some scruffy white boy with a canon) into the roastery for a bit to take pictures.

entrance

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Temple on the Sea

Haedong Yongung Temple is a pretty popular destination in Busan, very likely due to the fact that it’s built right on the side of a hill facing out to the sea. This is something I’d imagine tourists greatly regret in the winter, but in the summer it’s a busy spot. By that I mean it’s really crowded.

temple

kanon

lantern horizon

pagoda

The temple is mainly for Gwaneum who is the buddha that works to save all of humanity, and rides a dragon. If that didn’t sell it for you, it’s also the benefactor of Canon (Kwannon to Canon, no I’m not joking). So most of what you’ll see relates back to that, even the location since in Korea Gwaneum is associated with the sea as well.

bodhisattva

gate

zodiac statues

mountainpath

temple2

Despite its popularity, it’s not a very easy place to get to, you can take a single bus to get to the general area, but will probably have to end up walking 20-30 minutes from the Lotte Outlets nearby. There is a bus line the goes directly, but didn’t seem to go anywhere central in Busan city. Of course if you drive, this isn’t much of an issue at all. It’s just something to consider when you’ll be at the mercy of the weather all day already.

from the top

daewoongbojeon

goldjizo

sign

lanterns

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FM Coffee House

FM is a coffee house in central Busan near Seomyeon station. One of the things I first noticed was a sign in the cafe that listed all of the usual names for possible coffee flavors, something that helps me a lot because growing up the fruit at my supermarkets was pretty bad so I know what things taste like but I can’t always remember what’s kinda tart but also kinda sweet. From the outset it looks like a normal cafe, but it’s things like that and the skill of their baristas that make it noteworthy.

I kind of know what the people who made Life Is Strange feel.

I'm ashamed of all who chose the Starbucks across the street

The espresso had a bit of a burnt caramel taste at the beginning but gave way to a nice smokey base with almond flavor notes. It was ever so slightly tart and possibly has a bit of a brown sugar finish, the reason I say possibly is because it was one of the flavors listed but I didn’t really feel it until the end. Confirmation bias perhaps? All of this packed into a medium body espresso.

Good espresso is why I do this

Its apparent that FM has the dedication to coffee that’s necessary, besides the aforementioned flavor note picture, they had bags from cafes all around, even Stumptown, and a good amount of reading materials on coffee. They also use some beautiful Oji to make their cold brew. So they’re definitely interested in being a part of this third wave coffee thing and they’re easy enough to get to that you have no excuse not to go.

No static at all

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Japan’s Rabbit Island

Japan has an interesting thing going on with animals, there are cat cafes, owl cafes, deer parks, monkey onsen, the fox village, cat islands, and finally a rabbit island. Okunoshima is the real deal as far as being assaulted by fluffy rabbits goes and is an island with many faces. As soon as you step off the ferry, you’ll have bunnies hopping up to you hoping for a little piece of a carrot or cabbage. The family mart next to Tadanoumi station sells carrots and cabbage on the cheap, I’d recommend two containers per person because the carrots ran out quick and despite claims on the internet, there’s no way to buy more food on the island. Compared to some other animal attractions, this is way more hands on and cute, you get to feed rabbits, sometimes they’ll climb up on you a bit, but it’s never annoying like deer or somewhat risky like foxes. Some do run away after they get your food, but you’ll be able to pet a good amount.

Hop, stand, look cute, get food, repeat.

Sorry I said something scandalous.

The bomb shelter, I really wanted to go down into it but the possibility of poison kept me out

It has a lighthouse too!

That could be your leg with rabbits climbing up it!

I’m really good at ignoring animals begging for food, I don’t care how great your dog is, bring me to your house and they won’t be getting any pity food from me. But it’s hard to resist these rabbits because 90% of them hop over to you, stand up on their hind legs, and mostly wait patiently there. If you don’t give them food they’re not like the stalker deer who might just eat it right out of your bag and after you give them some food they don’t hound you for more and more.

WORTH IT!

You can have a view like this in hawaii or whatever, but this has bunnies!

Don't worry, I fed this little guy

A former battery

This ball of fluff followed us through the woods

So why are there rabbits there? When I mentioned the different faces of the island one is that it’s just a generally nice island spot in the inland sea, with hiking, cliffs, hills, sunsets, bunnies. The other face, besides the balls of fluff, is that it was the site of a poison gas laboratory in the war. The rabbits were brought to the island to test that poison gas, but were thankfully released after the end of the war. Like many of the great places to visit in Japan the current euphoric cuteness hides a much darker history. Walking along the island you can see old remnants of the war, including parts of the laboratory itself.

Forgot what he's looking for

This little guy ran after giving food but just so larger rabbits wouldn't steal it.

One of the only poison lab buildings that are left.

Just snoopin'

So mini

The news on this place is out and despite being low on the click bait website’s list, a good amount of people travel to okunoshima every day. One large contrast is that many of them are Japanese families, which means you will probably be sharing your ferry with a lot of kids. While Miyajima is still the big draw for Hiroshima, Okunoshima could work for anyone doing a three or four day trip to Hiroshima. From Tadanoumi station it’s easy to get to, but Tadanoumi is about an hour and a half to two hours away, unless you take a shinkansen. I was able to find a local train that goes directly from Hiroshima station to Tadanoumi, the Marine View Line, and there are busses but the busses seem to be only 2-4 a day. But it will definitely be worth the work to get there.

Yep, more of this little guy

11/10!

This is where the switchboard is.

You can see the port on the left side

Just eating some cabbage!

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The Best Cafes in Busan

It’s been taking quite a while to get through the in depth looks at all of the wonderful cafes in Seoul that I was able to get to, so I decided to give an extra post outlining the best cafes in Busan. As it is right now Busan is a slightly different but comparably awesome coffee scene, so much so that it’s well worth a trip on any coffee lover’s tour of Asia. It seems to be common practice to have two types of blends in a Busan cafe, a dark roast and light roast blend. On top of that, most of these cafes also offer a Single Origin Espresso or a sort of Seasonal Blend. Here are the cafes in no particular order:

MOMOS Coffee

Remember my mention of Republic of Coffee before? This is apparently the place that the former owner of that shop went to work for. They’re a big name in Busan for good reason. A huge cafe with a lot of desserts and three different kinds of espresso. If you’re bringing a non-coffee geek along, this will probably be as rewarding for them as it is for you.

The entrance is a bit confusing, so I decided to put it up first.

Blackup Coffee

With two shops located pretty centrally in the city of Busan, various cold brew samples, packs, and adding a specialty drink to the Busan tradition of three types of espresso, Blackup Coffee is a place you have almost no excuse to miss. It’s also the first time I have EVER identified apple as a flavor note in my coffee, and I used to spend 3 days a week at the Stumptown Brew Bar (RIP).

The front of the Nampo location, they had samples.

In Earth Coffee

Another big name in the coffee scene, but a bit harder to get to. You will have to take a bus unless you have access to a car. This does mean that it’s located very close to a less touristy beach of Busan (though in the summer Busanites say they never go to the beach anyway), and one that seems particularly catered to surfing and surfing lessons. In earth has a wide selection of drip bags as well as cold brew from their beautiful Oji. Do I need to even say that they have three types of espresso?

There needs to be a "good picture of espresso" autofocus...

RBH Coffee

Located really close to In Earth Coffee, I’m not gonna say or research who was there first and hopefully that shouldn’t matter to you. If they are in direct competition, then RBH is definitely the wide-eyed scrappy resistance. The workers there are really easy to talk to and get along with, and the espresso is pretty central. They’re also a part of the school of three types of espresso with one being a seasonal blend, but let it be known that searching through images their seasonal blend made my heart jump the most.

My Instagram friend whipping up a damn good espresso.

FM Coffee House

Also located pretty centrally in the city of Busan, FM Coffee is another one that’s very easy to get to. A very solid espresso with a good deal of desserts an non-coffee drinks. It’s a very small cafe compared to the others, but can definitely roll with them in spite of that.

Don't let the lack of things to differentiate it fool you, FM Coffee is still great espresso

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What Else is There to Do in Seoul?

As we’ve already established quite thoroughly, Seoul has some great cafes. Even if there were none, I would’ve enjoyed Seoul much more than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve been told many things about Seoul, many many times, but it feels as if the sale pitch always went the same way, and it went wrong for me. What I was told about, was a city dripped in the luxury of all the best western goods and a ton of clubs, parties, and people throwing money at shit. I’m sure that exists, as it exists in New York, but if you characterize New York in that way, most New Yorkers roll their eyes. The Seoul that I found is one where you can get amazing street food, and chill for hours with friends. A place with art, architecture, and a least some reverence for history. I found another city where people go out of their way for good food, where you have to check every corner for some hidden gem, have over a thousand places where you can just chill (I think maybe even more than New York, at least if we’re talking about in the cold season).

Seoul from Namsan Tower

Hi I'm Flowey, Flowey the Flower!

Went down to the river...

You belong to the city~

The first thing to mention is something I was unable to load any pictures of, the Seoul Escape Room. There’s a location in Hongdae, but there seem to be a few other central locations. The concept is simple, you’re locked in a room for an hour and need to find a code to get out, if you don’t, you get caught. At least at the Hongdae location, the staff was really nice and patient, and didn’t make the hectic feeling of the last few minutes any worse. The rooms accommodate 2-4 people, and I’d recommend choosing partners wisely. I didn’t have this experience, but you know that friend or coworker that doesn’t listen to anyone else? I think you may want to avoid bringing someone like that. You’ll likely form a connection with the people you’re with, be surprised by them, and get to add a few names to the “Who would you want to be stuck on a deserted island with?” or maybe cross off a few. If you want to get an idea for it, it seems to have been based off of games like Crimson Room, though possibly more convoluted. I’m pretty sure they said the success rate is 20%, leave no stone unturned, really.

The Namsan Tower, thankfully you're not allowed to put locks on it.

The view from Naksan, feel free to compare.

The view from Namsan tower, you can see the path to the tower from the right.

But it turns out from Naksan, you can see a very small Namsan Tower to the right.

Besides that there are always mountains to get a nice view from, namely Naksan and Namsan. Namsan is the most popular mountain destination in Seoul with Namsan tower, which is mostly an observatory with a reputation for youngish couples. You remember how a bunch of couples’ locks were going to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge? It’s like that. It’s also a great place to get a nice view of the entire city, though don’t try taking a taxi up to Namsan tower on busy days, when I went only busses, bikes, and foot traffic were allowed. There is also a ropeway but that’s also located in a part of Seoul mostly populated with hotels. Naksan, is a lot less crowded and as a result has some good cafes, pastry shops, and even a churros shop (yeah it was a thing in Seoul too, yeah it was good) along the way. Also has a beautiful view, but if you want the 360, you gotta do it with your own legs.

It's a water sausage!

This makes me think of The Maze Runner, a movie I've never seen.

I have no idea what an Environment Studio is or what it does.

There’s also rivers, the symbol of Seoul is indeed a mountain, a river, and the sun. If it’s a nice day, you can head over to Seonyudo which is a small semi-modern park in the middle of the river. If it’s a warm or hot night, you can head to Hangang where pretty much everyone else is. Don’t forget, it’s possible and common to order delivery in the park in Korea.

The view at Hangan.

Namsan ropeway [one way]: 6,000 won (~$6)

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Modern Factory

I feel like the name Modern Factory is very representative of a fundamental difference of ideas in the US and in East Asia. Coffee nerds in the US would definitely scrunch up at anything that calls itself a coffee factory, but in Korea and Japan it’s widely considered to be a good thing. Thankfully, Modern Factory has nothing in common with a factory or coffee factory at all, being a mostly single roaster cafe located very close to the historical district of Bukchon.

Gotta give them credit for that logo design though

The espresso at Modern Factory has a full thick body with some (a bit burnt) salted caramel flavors and some refreshing juiciness in the middle of the shot. I was told later that the espresso blend used was Panama, El Salvador, and Ethiopia. The latter is likely what gave the middle of the shot the amount of fruitiness. The cold brew uses shaved ice, giving it a feeling of a sort of coffee ice, even though most of it is still liquid.

An espresso cup like a nuovo point

I guess you could technically say this is coffee shaved ice

Modern Factory is a great slice of what the third wave coffee movement is in Seoul and deserves its spot up with the big fish of Seoul’s coffee scene. Unlike coffee shops in the US, most individual shops in Seoul roast on their own, often times in the same spot, and use mostly only their beans. This contrasts places like Third Rail, which chooses what they feel is the most interesting SOE from a larger roaster, or even Cafe Grumpy when it was very new, which outsourced the roasting of its blend to another roaster until they grew to warrant their own roasting. Seoul also contrasts with Japan’s movement as the most important drinks appear to be both espresso and cold brew, making my somewhat stubborn demand to judge all shops on their espresso a bit more justified.

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Korea’s Imperial Palace

Seokjojeon is a semi-modern palace located inside of Deoksugung, one of Seoul’s major palaces, and was originally created to be the center of Korea when it was changed over to an Empire in 1897. This moment in history is one of the most critical for the relationship between Korea and Japan, that still has influence today, so I’ll try my best to be concise. The last Joseon King’s father and regent was incredibly suspicious of any non-Chinese countries, and fought against any opening of Korea or influence from outside countries.

The entrance also had people dressed as Joseon soldiers.

Seokjojeon

The lobby, the table is apparently the most luxurious pieces of furniture.

The reception room, where guests used to wait to have an audience.

Stairs!

At that time Korea was a tributary of China, during the Qing Dynasty, but with their inability to keep Hong Kong and keep Taiwan under control, the Japanese empire figured they would push to be the only influence over Korea. At this time Russia, who would later go to war with Japan as well, was also looking to have influence over Korea. At this time Korea was ruled by King Gojong and Queen Min. King Gojong was much more open to foreign influence than his father, but after the first Sino-Japanese War was more supportive of Russia’s influence than Japan’s. This ended up leading to Japanese nationalists or assassins (Imperial Japan was full of shady dealings at the mid-level that makes it hard to say what exactly was an official order or not) killing Queen Min and forcing King Gojong to flee to the Russian embassy in Korea.

Old pictures of Deoksugung.

The King's Bedroom

The Queen's bedroom

Second floor over the lobby.

The audience chamber

When King Gojong came back to Korea he declared it to be the Empire of Korea and made himself the first Emperor. King Gojong, or Emperor Gwangmu was also apparently a lover of coffee and was the first person to use a phone in Korea. After the Japanese occupation, Seokjojeon was converted into an art gallery, and after that it had many uses such as a gallery, museum, and venue for international conferences. It was even used for a conference during the cold war between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The restoration work was completed at the end of 2014 so it’s a relatively new sight to see.

Seokjojeon's balcony

Gwangmyeongmoon

Joonghwamoon

...and Joonghwa Hall

Deokhong Hall

The rest of Deoksugung is also well worth seeing, though it’s far more condensed than the other two palaces in Seoul. Along with the grounds of Deoksugung, there are some other sights nearby like Hwanggungu.

They also have a nice pond

Hwanggungu, not too far of a walk from Deoksugung

Hwanggungu is quite possibly a more symbolic site than Deoksugung.

Cost : 1,000won (~$1)

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Hard to remember a day when it was too damn hot to sit outside

Coffee LEC – The Other Gangnam Style

Coffee LEC, standing for Limited Edition Coffee, is a small coffeeshop in Gangnam. However, at the moment, the central Gangnam location is closed so one would have to trek pretty far east to get to their other location. Don’t be shocked, you even have to take a bus. So yeah, it’s assumably a tough time for Coffee LEC right now. And yes, I did realize the name is redundant.

Hard to remember a day when it was too damn hot to sit outside

Small but it's a nice setup

The more obscure location is quite small, giving you the feeling that you’re drinking coffee in someone’s office, possibly because the office is right next to you. They were also sadly lacking in Single Origin Espresso, even though single origin is a kind of thing for them.

If I'm ever rich, that will be my espresso machine

Don't hold the sin of putting an espresso in a paper cup against them

The espresso does make up for this however; it’s a mid-heavy body espresso with a roast flavor, but not too strong of one. With it we get salted caramel and dark chocolate flavor notes. It’s also worth noting that the machine used is a La Marzocco GS3 which is like watching a kitten that can fight like a tiger. Hopefully it won’t be long before they open their central Gangnam location so that all of you can enjoy more easily.

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You have no idea, it's so good. I want to print this picture out and eat it again

Korean Chinese Food

A long time ago my brother told me about how interesting it was to eat Chinese food in other countries because it usually adopted some kind of flavor to match that country. I was only really able to try this in Italy where it did taste different but I wasn’t really able to figure out why exactly. In New York and presumably other parts of the US, there’s been a long growing backlash against the typical American Chinese food, and while this has caused xiao long bao and xian food to become as natural to New Yorkers as bagels, I need to admit I still love “sweet and sour chicken.”

Could you guess this is supposed to be a Chinese restaurant?

The interior tips you off to the fact that you're in Hongdae

For the most part I tell people to avoid Chinese food in Japan like the plague, and I live in Yokohama, the centre of Chinese food. In Korea however, the big Chinese and Korean fusion is Jjamppong. While Japan also has their own version of Champon, (which is great as well, especially if you like shrimp) Korean Jjamppong is probably the biggest draw of Chinese restaurants.

The way to say Jjamppong in Korean is also really strong, Jam! Pong!

I can see why, because what I had ordered at Yeongbinru in Hongdae was simple and amazing. Jjamppong and tangsooyook. Jjamppong is a type of spicy seafood soup, like ramen but with more spice and a great deal of calamari in it. I’m sure there are places where the jjamppong is overly spicy, however this place was a good level, flavorful and a bit spicy but not making you wish for yogurt afterwards. For reference, my perfect level of spiciness is Samyang Buldak Bokkeum Ramyun.

You have no idea, it's so good. I want to print this picture out and eat it again

And then there is the Tangsooyook, which are disks of fried pork that are glazed with a sweet and savory sauce. The ones at Yeongbinru were especially great considering that it had the crispy texture and a good amount of sweetness into deep savoriness that made it hard for me to stop eating. If it sounds familiar, it is a bit similar to many of our American Chinese dishes, but I’d argue it’s a bit less heavy on the sweetness and much more savory. Some times the simplest things are the best.

It is a bit hard to find, here's the view from the outside

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