One of the places that I wanted to visit during this summer trip was Buamdong, a quiet but quirky neighbourhood in Seoul that is nestled between two mountains. I read that it had lovely walking trails, leading to a number of historical sites and other attractions in that area. Sounds like my kind of place. There were two places in Buamdong that I really wanted to visit – a coffee place called Club Expresso and a cafe called Sanmotoonge. If you have watched the popular Korean drama, Coffee Prince, you’ll remember Sanmotoonge – this awesome-to-death house that was featured in the drama as the home of one of the leads.
Buamdong sounded like it was kind of difficult to get to, being near the mountains and all, but I was surprised to find out how accessible it is. It was a 15 minute bus ride from Gwanghwamun. I got off the bus at the Buamdong Community Centre stop (but I couldn’t really tell where the community centre was). I wandered around for a while feeling rather lost, not knowing how to get to Club Expresso based on the Buamdong map that was pasted near the bus-stop. I finally managed to locate the coffee place – it was just a 2 minute walk away from the bus-stop in the opposite direction from where I had been going.
The weather was so horribly hot and I was sweating buckets. A nice, tall glass of ice coffee would have been perfect to quench my thirst. But I could not not drink a cup of expresso at this highly rated coffee place that I have been reading about online.
With its bricks-and-wood decor, Club Expresso had a traditional feel to the place that made me think of a Korean tea-house instead of a coffee place. I ordered an expresso made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans. It was rich and fragrant, and I enjoyed it very much. But it did nothing to quench my thirst, or cool me down. I was dying for something very C-O-L-D.
After Club Expresso, I trudged my way in search of Sanmotoonge. Uphill. In the heat. I nearly melted away…it felt like an eternity before I arrived and saw this familiar brick walls!
SANMOTOONGE. So pretty on the outside.
By this time, I was totally parched and all I could think of was “I need iced water!” While waiting for my order, I gulped down two glasses of lemon-flavoured iced water before I had the energy to take a closer look at the cafe. As expected, the cafe was dotted with memorabilia of the Coffee Prince drama, such as props used in the drama and photographs of the cast.
Love the typewriter!
The air-conditioned section of the cafe was packed with locals having afternoon tea and I could only find an empty spot at the alfresco terrace, which offers a fabulous view of the mountains and the city. This would be a super hang-out place in spring and autumn when the weather is cool.
It is amazing that a place like that exists in an urban city. I am trying to think if we could replicate this in Bukit Timah Reserve here in Singapore.
My thirst-quenching lemon soda and a slice of crepe cake. (I lurrrrve crepe cakes!) It was a totally chill-ax time spent watching people and kids horsing around. Until ants started to appear on my plate…and I had to abandon the table and run into the air-conditioned cafe.
I didn’t realise that there was seating space on the second floor! It would have been quite nice sitting at the far end of the room – that’s prime property where you get a great view in an air-conditioned environment.
I really like this cute place. The next time, I will try to visit earlier in the morning and hopefully, there would be less of a crowd and more tranquility.
Directions to Club Expresso and Sanmotoonge:
Take subway line 3 to Gyeongbokgung (exit 3). Get on bus numbers 7022, 7212, or 1020(all green buses) at the second bus-stop after leaving Exit 3 and get off at the Buam-dong Community Centre stop (about 15 minutes away). From the bus-stop, walk uphill untill you see the building below.
^ This is Club Expresso.
To get to Sanmotoonge from Club Expresso, cross the road at the traffic light in front of the building and you will see this row of shops.
Walk along the shops until you reach this cute triangular building.
If you look up at the signs on the building, you will see the arrows pointing you in the direction of Sanmotoonge. Keep to the road on the right of this building and walk uphill for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and you will reach Sanmotoonge.
Thank goodness I had the good sense to wear comfortable walking shoes. I was panting by the time I got to the cafe! The weather was so hot. After I left Sanmotoonge and mid-way down the hill, I popped into another cafe for a cold beer.