Heyri Art village, Korea

I have wanted to go to Heyri Art Village for quite a while now.  I originally found it while looking at places to go during winter break last year.  It’s a really interesting village that is basically a space for different artists.  It’s jammed packed with museums, gallerys, cafes and sculptures. For a number of reasons, the trip kept getting postponed, and pushed back, and delayed, until finally I said enough is enough, hopped on the subway and went up north.  I’m so happy I finally went, especially since I was starting to think I never would.

First, getting to Heyri is super easy.  Which is a dream for me, because directions are not my favorite thing.  It’s in the northern part of South Korea, near Paju and only a few kilometers from the North Korean border.  As someone that has not been up to visit the DMZ (and has no intention to go at this time) this was probably the closest I would come to North Korea.  The only weird thing about it was the highway.  On the drive up to Heyri, the highway is lined on one side with barbed wire, and it has frequent guard stations spaced along it.  This highway runs along a river that makes up part of the border.

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Getting closer to Heyri, the excitement started to build.  The buildings were noticeably more interesting.  I saw repurposed shipping containers, old busses, and lots and lots of color.

Gripe number one about Heyri.  (and there will only be one, so don’t be expecting a list, this place is wonderful.) There is very very little in terms of information.  No guide map that you can walk around with, and though there are some map signs posted around the village- they don’t have ‘you are here’ arrows, which makes them useless to me.  So I did a lot of wandering, which was lovely.  But it was hot.  “How hot?” you ask? So hot the dog didn’t want to move:

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Now, one gripe I have with the Korean Tourism Heyri site.  They say that most everything is closed on Mondays, which is handy information.  A bit handier would be to say that most galleries are closed Monday and Tuesdays.  I went on a Tuesday, and while most of the museums and cafes were open, most of the galleries were not.  On the upside here, because there is little to no information about what to actually see there, there was nothing I was too excited about beforehand.  Mostly it was just a big unknown.  And while it would have been nice to know about the possibly closed galleries in advance, I was planning more with the weather than anything else.  It’s been a rainy monsoon season here the last few week… so I was basically going on the only day with sun.  (Even though it was so hot.)

Now,  Many fun things to see and do in Heyri.  I imagine it’s the kind of place that becomes more interesting the more time you spend there.  But first: lunch.

Most of the cafes seemed to be pricey for what they were offering.  I ended up choosing Eataly.  Mostly because it was there, and I was hot and lost, and the closed windows made me think they had air conditioning.  They did, and it was glorious.  They also had a free brunch buffet if you ordered food.  So I ordered, and thought the brunch buffet would be toast, or maybe some type of sandwich or omelet.  I suppose I have just gotten too used to free hostel breakfast.  But I was in for a surprise.

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The free brunch buffet was seafood tteokbokki, and salad that was actually delicious, chips and assorted dips, and little mini semi deconstructed lasagnas.

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I also got a black olive and rucola pizza that was huge.  But it was SO GOOD.  And since it was so big, I ended up taking half of it home with me and eating it for dinner.

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Eataly also offers the brunch buffet for 5,000 won if you just order a drink.  If you’re not very hungry, I think that would be totally worth it.  Even if you’re pretty hungry, it would be worth it.  But the pizza was delicious, so I would suggest getting one of those as well. 🙂

After lunch, I headed out once again.  I was excited to head to the video game museum.  I was reading Ready Player One on the bus ride up to Heyri, so I felt like I had to go and at least check it out.  It was really fun.  They had so many games set up to play.  I beat a little kid in Mario Kart several times.  But mostly I just hung out and played Super Mario Brothers and Tetris.  Because I’m so hip.  Also had my first experience with a 4D game… NOT A FAN.  It was a 3D first person shooter game, and it would puff air at you to simulate bullets whizzing by your head.  NOPE.

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After the video game museum, I walked around quite a bit.  Saw some really cool statues:

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very cool architecture:

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And tons of re-purposed vehicles, shipping containers, and odds and ends:

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We want an ice cream shop, but all we have is an old foreign school bus… PERFECT!  And I have this pile of broken bricks… make a village!  Something tells me that bear does not have a drivers license, though.

And overall just a ton of cool little artistic touches that made the whole place feel rather wonderful… like this dog/cat condo:

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This bridge:

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This fence:

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This cafe:

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All in all, I would definitely suggest a trip up to Heyri to anyone living in Korea.  It was fun, easy to get to, and really distinct.  You won’t get an experience like it anywhere else.  Also, on the way to Heyri, you pass the Paju Outlets, which are HUGE and probably worth going to as well.

I’m going to include some directions here, in case anyone is planning on taking the trip, because the ones on the Korean Tourism website aren’t perfect.
Take subway Line 2 to Hapjeong Station, and then take Exit 1.  (The website says exit 2, but no.)
– Take Bus 2200.  It is just outside Exit 1, there is a big red circle sign. (And when I went- a line of people waiting for the bus to come.  It comes every 15 minutes.
– Get off at the Heyri stop. (It takes 40-50 minutes, and things will start looking more ‘artsy’ well before you reach Heyri Art Village.  Wait until she says “Heyri!”)

Then just have fun!  I have to note- easily my favorite place that I visited was the toy museum… I will be writing a separate blog about that (because this one is very long already) But here is one picture to pique your interest:

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Cat Cafes, Asia

I am a big fan of cats.  So, you’d think cat cafes were pretty much my favorite thing in existence.  It’s literally a place you can go and just hang out with cats.  However, while I’m a fan of cat cafes, I hardly ever go to any.  But I have been to some in Korea, and I also visited one in Japan.  So I thought I’d talk a bit about my thoughts on the subject and then some of the differences between the experiences.

First off, the idea I had about cat cafes was vastly different from that the reality was.  In my dream cat cafe, you arrive with a book, order a drink and find a cozy table.  Then a cat comes up and jumps in your lap and snoozes.  And you spend a relaxing few hours reading while the cat snoozes and purrs.  Maybe it wakes up and you play some type of fun game involving a stuffed mouse.

In reality, you go into a room with tons of cats, and tons of people.  And the cats don’t seem like they really like people that much.  But they deal with it, because they have to.  Some of the cats were really active and playful.  Some of them were busy chasing each other around the whole time.

The cat cafe in Japan had some really exotic looking cats.  They were definitely the more beautiful than the cats in the cafe in Korea.

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This cat was actually quite a sweetie, but the haircut.  Oh, who did that to the cat.  I think he could feel the other cats judging him.


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Now, one big difference about the cafes was that in Japan it was $10 to get in, which got you a beverage of your choice and little plastic container of cat treats.  The cat treats looked like plain shredded chicken, but I wasn’t about to try and figure out if that’s really what it was.  This made the majority of the cats really excited to see you… but unless you were actively handing out treats, they would move on pretty quickly.  And they didn’t seem to really want to interact at all.  Treats or nothing.

Except this guy.

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This guy didn’t care about your treats, he just wanted to take a nap in his mixing bowl.  As any cat owner knows, when you have a cat, everything you own becomes a cat bed.  They were pushing the boundaries on this at the cafe.

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Wok, fishbowl, mixing bowl, colander… EVERYTHING’S A BED.

The other downside to the cat cafe in Japan (other than the greedy, treat hungry cats) was that there was a strict one hour time limit.  The upside of that was that they controlled the number of people that went in, so it wasn’t very crowded.  We actually had to wait for an hour before we were allowed in.  But once we were there, the hour passed by so quickly.

In Korea, there was no time limit. And it was only $8, but you didn’t get any treats.  The lack of treats made the cats less likely to come right up to you, but they seemed overall more interested in playing.

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Overall these cats seemed a little less exotic, and a little more housecat.  But there were still some beautiful stand outs.

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And the highlight of this cafe was the huge cat jungle gym that the cats mostly liked to sleep on, but some of them were having fun playing.

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I was a little worried about the sanitation of this cafe however.  As we walked in, we noticed a cat sitting by the espresso machine, head inside the container for foaming the milk for lattes.

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At least he wasn’t getting lots of hair in the milk?

One last note:  In the elevator to the cat cafe in Japan, we noticed there was a maid cafe just upstairs from it.  It’s basically a cafe for older men, where they go in and get served by young Japanese women in French maid’s costumes.  How wonderfully fetish-y.  ???

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Buying Flight Tickets

A quick note about airplane pricing.  Could be considered a rant, as I am not very happy about this.

First of all, if you’ve been following along with the blog, you know I’m big on budget travel.  I enjoy finding great deals.  I use skyscanner for fun.  Friends call me when they are booking tickets to see if I can find a better price.

Recently, I have been looking at flights back to America.  (As well as beginning to look at flights for the next adventure.) And I found the PERFECT flight.  Asiana Flight OZ 222.  Not only was it a direct flight from Seoul to New York, it was on an Airbus 380, the biggest and newest plane.  I have been wanting to fly in one for a long time.  And even better than all that?  The times were great as well.  Leave at 10:30 in the morning, arrive at 11:30.  It would have been a dream.

I say ‘would have’ because unfortunately, the flight cost $1,300, which was way above the budget my school would pay for a flight.  And that is totally understandable. But I kept pushing, and was surprised by what I found.

By opening my search up to Osaka, I found out that I could book Osaka to NYC, and it would fly to Seoul, and then connect to the magical OZ222 direct to New York. Literally the same flight.  But this option came in at just under $900.  So more than $400 cheaper that just booking from Seoul.  Keep in mind a budget trip from Seoul to Osaka is only about $75.

To make matters even more confusing, Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance.  United is also a member of Star Alliance, and through their website, you can book the same flight.  It just says (Operated by Asiana Airlines) underneath.  The cost to book it through United?  $2,619.  More than twice as much as booking through Asiana and nearly three times as much as booking through Osaka.

To say I was shocked by the widely varying prices for THE EXACT SAME FLIGHT would be an understatement. So I called the airline.  They said that it was priced that way to try and interest Japanese people to fly their airline.  I suppose I understand that. (But I still don’t like it.)  I have no reason why it is so expensive to fly United, but a similar thing happened when I was trying to book a flight from Boston to Ireland.

Morals of the story:

1. When booking flights, don’t stop looking just because you’ve found a great flight.  Sometimes being flexible with days, airlines, airports, and websites can save you hundreds of dollars.

2. Don’t fly United.  Well, I usually try not to fly any American based airline (except you Southwest, I love you!) But make sure at the very least, if you are on a flight that’s operated by another airline, check the price of booking with them directly.