I woke up late. At least, later than I had hoped. I wanted to spend two hours at the gym, 30 minutes jogging outside and maybe another hour or so playing video games before I left.
But I woke up late.
It wasn’t my idea to go to Hongdae, not that I didn’t want to go just that it wasn’t my idea. I guess when we got there, my heart just wasn’t in it. We went to eat a Greek restaurant that I had passed by countless times before and had always wanted to try but it was closed. Underneath it on the first floor was a goulash place that I had never noticed but I sensed that my compatriots weren’t in the mood for goulash. So instead we went to a fried chicken restaurant that I had seen, but never carried an interest for. For $25 I got a meal that tasted like it should have cost ten.
When we entered the restaurant it had been cloudy and now that we were finished eating (and ready to explore Hongdae) the skies were darkening and the air was wet with the promise of rain. I felt pretty damned gloomy, so gloomy that I didn’t notice that my girlfriend and her sister had stopped and were looking up at a cafe. I walked back to where they were slowly, as the streets had begun to flood with streams of water funneling through from the sudden but unavoidable rainfall. When I got back to where they were standing, my feet were soaked inside my shoes and I was starting let the gloom get to me. I looked up at the sign they had been ignoring me for.
Unbeknownst to me, our guest has a thing for cats. Personally I don’t have anything against cats, in fact I think that they’re downright cute… but all the times I’ve been bitten lead me to think that the feeling isn’t mutual.
We were hoarded in by the guy standing outside wearing cat paws and a ridiculously large cat head. We made our way upstairs and well… I’d be lying if I said wasn’t pleasantly surprised.
It was bright. Not so much that it hurt my eyes but enough that it lifted the spirits of anyone who dared wander in from the gloom that was the outside world at that moment. The cafe’s waitresses immediately noticed my foreign companions and went straight to me with a list of rules and regulations. When that didn’t stick, they pulled out a nice and handy list of rules laminated and written in English. We read them and the waitresses demonstrated some of the rules for us. Then they handed us a menu (also in English) and I proceeded to order drinks for the three of us. The waitress walked us to a table in the corner (which was a godsend) and we settled down.
I had been glancing around the cafe when we entered but now that I was settled I took a better look and… it looked like a heaven for cats. There were little nooks and rooms for the cats to nap in, overhead were walkways, food and water were found in several areas of the cafe (but placed out of the way so people wouldn’t accidentally step in) and in the center of a cafe was… I guess the best way to describe it is a tree. Except this tree was made up of steps for cats to climb on, boxes to sleep in and scratching posts to keep them busy.
Any thoughts about the outside world were left outside and for 2 hours we walked around, took pictures and, of course, pet the cats. An infinite variety of cats wandered the cafe, some looking for attention while other avoided it. Some would go to sleep after receiving some attention, while others would wake up and wander around for a bit.
All in all, it was most impressive.
When we’d finally had our fill of $8 drinks (by our fill I mean, one) and finished petting cats we made our way back outside where mother nature hadn’t skipped a beat. Rain water poured down back alleyways and people huddled together under umbrellas as we made our tour around the shops and as much of Hongdae as we could before we arrived at our final destination of the day. The Hello Kitty Cafe.
I’ve been to this location before, just once when I first heard about it with my girlfriend. The seating was cramped and few. Food was decent but the draw here was the atmosphere… I guess. This time the second floor had been opened up and with it a large amount of seating. There were no stragglers standing outside waiting for seats, no vultures watching you eat. The second floor is huge (in comparison to the first) and designed much in the same way as the first.
The walls are painted pink with cute seating and pictures of Hello Kitty lining some of the walls. Personally I’m a fan of the Snoopy Cafe but I can’t knock the appeal here. Any girl who visits Seoul should make a stop here and it was definitely a treat. We did the standard photos and made some chit chat (our guest started to become convinced that Hello Kitty was indeed real, and we were simply in her home).
It was a good day, surprisingly filled with cats (real and anthropomorphized).