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Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Underrated Area in Seoul: Buam-dong

Buam-dong, Seoul, South Korea

One area of Seoul that many non-Koreans don't know about is Buam-dong. To Koreans it's fairly popular but since it's not the easiest to get to, Koreans settle for Samcheong-dong, which is nice but very crowded on weekends.

How do you get here? I made the mistake of thinking that it was close to Hongje Station after looking on Naver maps. I knew it was a bit of a distance but I thought I could walk there. After about 20 minutes of walking, I finally took a 7-minute taxi ride. Oops! Therefore, I wanted to find a way to make it easier for you. I was able to get assistance from the website, which provided me with the directions:

"Take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3) and come out of Exit 3. Walk straight for about 100 meters and look for the second bus stop (not the shuttle bus stop). Take either the #1020 (green bus) or #7022 (green bus). Take one of those buses for 6 stops until you reach the Buam-dong Community Service Center. You'll be able to hear it in English, so make sure that you're listening carefully. The bus journey will take no longer than 10 minutes."

Once the taxi driver dropped me off at the top, I really had no idea where to look. I saw an area that was right dab in between Inwangsan to the south (close by on foot) and Bukhansan to the north. Quaint little restaurants, shops, and cafes were nearby, so I started doing my own exploring.

I was a bit hungry, so I wanted to find a place to eat at first. I followed the main road that leads to Gyeongbok Palace and saw a cute Italian restaurant called Da Pasta (a name that made me smile) on the east side of the street.

Da Pasta Italian Restaurant
There were a total of four tables with nice elegant European style decor in the restaurant and two very nice ladies working there. When I walked inside, there were two customers at another table eating. As soon as they left, I was alone for about 30 minutes talking to one of the owners and told her what I was doing in Korea.

The interior of Da Pasta
They were very surprised to see a non-Korean alone and asked me where I was from and they hoped I would enjoy their pasta dish. I chose a pasta dish that doesn't usually disappoint: Carbonara. Overall the flavor was there, however it was a bit dry. But there was a reason for that. The owner told me in Korean that Koreans preferred it that way but admitted that non-Koreans usually complained that the pasta was indeed too dry. I didn't tell her that but I definitely agreed that more sauce was needed. Nonetheless, the pasta was of high quality and there was a decent amount of bacon in it. It was W14,000.

My carbonara dish
I wasn't sure what my next stop would be but I decided to look for a cafe and do some reading. I walked for about 5 minutes south and saw a two-story cafe on the corner called Club Espresso. I saved a seat upstairs and then went downstairs to check the menu. This cafe is famous for its croissants.

Club Espresso 

First Floor of Club Espresso
Here's a shot of the cafe upstairs. The place gets packed on weekends as you can see...

Second floor of Club Espresso
I ordered an iced cafe latte and a chocolate croissant. How did the croissant rate? The taste was excellent and it was very buttery. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to go back there for another one. The coffee was great as well...

A chocolate croissant with my iced cafe latte
But the best part of my exploration of Buam-dong was yet to come. After I did some reading and enjoyed my dessert, I wanted to get outside and experience the sunshine. I started my walk toward Inwangsan. I was pretty surprised how the street just passed right through the mountain.

Inwangsan in front of me
After about a 5-7 minute walk, I found a trail that led me up to the Seoul City Wall that surrounds Inwangsan, which I wasn't even looking for. I decided to walk up the stairs and follow a trail that led me to the wall...

On the way to the Seoul city wall on Inwangsan

I wasn't sure what kind of view I would get from the top but lo and behold I got some great shots of Seoul from here. As I looked over the wall, this is what I got to see...

A view of Bukhansan from the Seoul City Wall on Inwangsan
I kept walking up the stairs and came across two Korean soldiers that wouldn't allow me to take pictures from one particular point. Then I realized that that point was directly above the Blue House (Cheongwadae). Once I couldn't go up any further, I came down the mountain and got a great view of N Seoul Tower on the south side of Inwangsan. I got two wonderful views of Seoul from two different vantage points. Here's what I was able to see....

A view of N Seoul Tower from Inwangsan
Another shot of N Seoul Tower as I was coming down the mountain
How amazing was that! Not only were the views great but it wasn't that crowded and it was very quiet. I totally recommend coming here when you have a free weekend. Make sure you make a trip here before it becomes a hot place on TV and everybody and their cousins come here for a visit. It's well worth it just for the nature.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Review of Hotel Hyundai in Gyeongju, South Korea

Lobby of Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju

If you're in Gyeongju and you want to stay at a hotel with a wonderful location, Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju is the place to be. Hotel Hyundai is located in Bomun-dong right next to Bomun Lake, which is a beautiful lake that you can view from the comfort of your hotel room. The hotel is very clean and classy with very attentive receptionists.

Would you like a cup of coffee? Coffee Sara is at your rescue
It's a very spacious hotel with various features. Coffee Sara is on the main floor if you want to have a cup of coffee while enjoying the outdoor view of Bomun Lake. There's a lobby lounge where you can enjoy cocktails, juice, or coffee and next to it is Club Havana, where you can sing karaoke, dance, or play billiards. Hyundai Hotel Gyeongju has many options for you to relax and have fun at.

Bomun Lake with Gyeongju World Amusement Park on other side
Bomun Lake at night with lit up bridge in the background
The best thing about this hotel is the view of the lake. I was astounded by how beautiful and picturesque the surroundings of Gyeongju were from my hotel room. I kept saying to my wife how blessed we were to be staying here. I was in awe and enjoyed the nature as we sat outside on our balcony.

Not a bad way to relax, is it?
If you're interested in more active activities, Hotel Hyundai has a fitness center and swimming pool as well. Although, the swimming pool is a bit expensive to use (W20,000), it is very well maintained and very relaxing. There are showers, lockers, soap, shampoo, towels, and dryers available.

A heated pool that feels like bathwater
After you're done exercising and very hungry, Buffet Topaz will not disappoint you. The restaurant offers excellent food options. You can get steak, Vietnamese noodles, Chinese food, Korean food, sushi, various salads, bread, and a various assortment of desserts (multiple flavors of cakes and fresh fruit). The exceptional taste and service of the restaurant cannot be denied and I was very impressed. I only wish I could have eaten more!

Various choices of food at Buffet Topaz

Just a sample since I had too many options!

4 different kinds of cakes, strawberries and pineapple for my choice of dessert
The room itself has one TV, two comfortable beds, and a bathroom with all of the amenities you need. Wi-fi is available to do all of your work while on business.

A comfortable room with a view of Bomun Lake outside your balcony
Overall, the hotel can be a bit pricey, but you can probably get great deals on or It's a very great hotel for the above reasons and it's also conveniently located near the main attractions of Gyeongju (Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, Gyeongju World, and Teddy Bear Museum). I loved the food and I loved the view of Bomun Lake, which were my favorite things about this hotel. I hope you can get a chance to enjoy them too!

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Best and Worst Things About Living in Asia

I really enjoy living in Asia. Sometimes I really love it and there are other times it can be challenging. But overall, I'm thankful to God that be has brought me here. But if you're wondering what I think the best and worst things are about living in Asia, here's a very short list. Please feel free to post something below if you have a question or comment about my list. I would love to hear other people's opinions about living abroad. I would also like to help others who are considering living abroad. So here's my list without further ado:

The 5 Best Things about Living in Asia

1. You always feel like you're traveling. Even though, it's currently your home, you still find something new in your adopted homeland. Seoul is huge. I still find places that I haven't been to and I love taking pictures of these new discoveries.

2. Even though the nostalgia has faded, it's still pretty unique being a "foreigner" on the subway among a bunch of Asians. Even though the feeling is not as strong as it used to be, it sometimes still reminds me that I've been living abroad for almost 14 years. That astounds me!

3. Eating the local food is great. You'll never find Korean food this good anywhere else in the world. And the places which only the locals know are fantastic and cheap!

4. Thankfully, Japan and China are very close to Korea. I've also been able to travel to Southeast Asia at reasonably priced airfares. I appreciate that I've been able to experience different Asian cultures that are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Korea.

5. I've learned how Koreans act in certain situations compared to Americans. Sometimes I understand it and sometimes I don't. However, it has really educated me on the major differences between Western attitudes and how people think in the East.

The 5 Worst Things about Living in Asia

1. I hate not being able to see my family often. It's especially difficult that I can see my two nephews and niece growing up. That's definitely the most difficult thing to endure.

2. I think the time difference is a bit inconvenient. In order to catch my dad on the phone at a decent time. I need to call at 10am Seoul time (6:00pm in L.A.) which isn't so bad. Sometimes I'm tired after teaching my morning conversation classes. The last thing I want to do as an introvert is to talk on the phone. The only other opportunity is to call my dad at 1am Seoul time when it's 9:00am in L.A.

3. As I mentioned earlier, the Korean food in Seoul is great. Good food from other countries can be found in Seoul. However, it's either pretty good (not amazing) and/or it's expensive. I love On the Border but I can't go there often, since it's a bit pricey here. If you want really good Italian food, you'll have to pay for it but more competition is helping to make the prices more reasonable. I think Turkish kebabs are the best bang for your buck (won) in Seoul.

4. Some cultural aspects are just hard to overcome. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not L.A. I need to realize that. Specifically, people are always in a hurry in Seoul, which is the exact opposite of L.A. I also miss saying hello to strangers on the street. Sometimes I feel like I've become more repressive while in Asia, which is not a good thing.

5. A flight ticket back home isn't cheap and it's a long distance. If Asia was closer, I'm sure more family members would visit and I would go home more often. That's definitely a challenge.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pastor Douglas Park's Last Sermon at NHM (May 28, 2017)

There are four things NHM taught Pastor Doug in his 7.5 years at NHM.

1. Powerful servant leaders- When I came to NHM, it was the first time he saw other church members folding bulletins, setting up chairs, etc. I saw the Holy Spirit moving people's hearts. All of NHM's ministries were begun by the members (homeless outreach, orphanage ministry, Meet and Greet, etc.). There used to be so many prostitute cards all around Gangnam Station. One blonde hair/blued eyed woman went to the police station and dropped the cards onto their desk and said "This is wrong!" The police felt some shame behind it and cracked down. You rarely see those cards now.

2. The preciousness of people- I originally wanted to be a megachurch pastor, not a church of a megachurch. G.K. Chesterton said, "Meaningless does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure." What's the point of having numbers at church without having disciples? These are God's precious treasures. I need to take care of them. When Jesus left this Earth, he only left one thing: his disciples. Love the people, invest in them, and disciple them. David Gibbons said that many pastors use people to accomplish their own dreams when they should use God to accomplish the potential in people.

3. The goal is to raise up leaders and not just members.- The more leaders NHM has, the stronger NHM will be. We are all leaders. We should all be a good influence on others.

4. I've been impacted by the transformation of this church.- Different nations, cultures, and different backgrounds yet we are all one community. The pattern of this world is to follow money or your job. Yet one member extended his contract an extra year because he realized NHM was his home. NHM has also helped to restore marriages, comforted me, accepted my weaknesses, and supported my family. Whatever you sow, you will reap. Thank you for 7.5 years at NHM.

Sermon Title: "When Storms are Only Showers"

What's the biggest problem you're facing or have faced? How did you handle it or are handing it? What's the biggest problem Jesus faced? Betrayed by 30 pieces of silver? All 11 of his disciples abandoning him? Beaten, spit on, and mocked? When the Father looks away because he couldn't look at the sin Jesus was taking upon Himself? Jesus faced real problems and struggles but never gave the impression that the problems were out of his control. There wasn't any problem that was too big for Him. We need to realize that all of our problems are small and they are in the hands of a big Father.

Matthew 7:24-27- If you listen to Jesus and follow his commands, it is like building our house on solid rock.  Different problems will come at us, but we need to build our house on the rock.

John 16:33- Let your focus not be on the wind, rain, etc. Let your focus always be in Christ. He has already overcome the world. Jesus took upon the sins of the world and the death on the cross.

We need to set our foundations on Christ. We shouldn't just believe it, but we need to live it out. If we don't, we will be tossed to and fro by this world. God gives us a standard not to be a killjoy but because he knows what we need as our Creator.

Hebrews 9:27- Jesus always prayed and was intimate with his Father and he obeyed. "Father forgive them for they do not know what they're doing." God can use our problems to glorify his name.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy