Right now, Korea is smack in the middle of the infamous monsoon season. While it can make walking to work a little less than pleasant, you can’t let it hamper your free time, especially your weekends. Since the out of doors is particularly damp, hot, and muggy, finding indoors activities is a top priority. Luckily, Seoul has a wide range of things to keep you both dry and busy. You can go the normal route like museums and movies, or you can track down some of the more unusual activities. This weekend’s diversion? The Mustoy Café in Seoul...
Mustoy, as I’d read on the Korea Tourism site, is a café in the Hongdae area of Seoul that includes a unique art project: for ₩15,000 (a little less than $15 USD), you're given a ceramic doll and markers to color in however you want. The price also includes a drink of your choice: coffee, juice, or tea. After seeing a few pictures online and scanning through various blog entries, I was sold. As a belated celebration of my birthday, I gathered up my fellow CDI teacher friends and we headed off to Hongdae.
The outside of the cafe. Check the end of the post for directions!
The café itself is quite tiny, and when the six of us walked in, nearly every table was occupied, save the larger table that conveniently seats six people. The cafe is adorable, with a definite artsy vibe, mostly due the countless colorful Mustoy dolls that people have left behind for display on the shelves lining the walls.
Other customers hard at work.
A tiny selection of the Mustoy dolls on display.
We were enthusiastically greeted by the café’s employees, ushered to the table, and then the explanation of how this whole thing worked began. There are two main types of dolls: the mussky and the musppy. Some are big, some are small, some are white, some are different colors. There's even one that looks like a cat and another that doubles as a pen holder. Examples of each of these were placed before us so we could carefully make this crucial decision.
Some of our options...
Most cost the standard ₩15,000, with a couple special dolls being a little pricier at ₩20,000. After telling the kind woman who works in (and possibly owns?) the café which dolls we each wanted to decorate, our selections were brought out to us along with a small card for a practice drawing and all the permanent markers we could want.
I went with the "Musppy," the "happy girl."
We were told not to worry about making mistakes on our dolls because each basket came with q-tips and rubbing alcohol, making it easy to carefully erase anything deemed unsatisfactory. I found this very useful because drawing on a ceramic, round object is actually much more difficult than you would anticipate...
The "Zannah's really busy concentrating on drawing" face that I've made my entire life...
Our lovely hostess, making conversation with us as we worked.
One thing that impressed me about this cafe, besides the opportunity to be creative and artistic, was the staff. The woman who helped us was extremely friendly and interested in talking with us. I imagine she gets a lot of foreigners in the café, and she was happy to chat with us about our lives here and where/what we taught. She actually knew a thing or two about Chungdahm -- I believe she said her son attended one of our locations for a bit! Her English was great and she seemed quite curious about what we were drawing -- she firmly believes that what you draw on your Mustoy speaks for your inner character and personality.
My finished doll!
When she saw my doll, she said people who draw like this are usually very mathematical, scientific, and logical. When I told her that I hate math and science, she frowned and started laughing. After thinking about it, I realized she was probably right. While I preferred art, ballet, acting, and reading, I can't say that I'm bad at math or science. She nodded wisely, with a "I knew I was right" expression, and teased me that it's a shame I'm not putting my detailed, mathematical mind to use in a related field.
Our finished dolls! We had a little photoshoot to show off our artwork.
Our Mustoys were carefully bubblewrapped and boxed up once we were ready to go, guaranteeing they would survive the rest of the day's activities in Seoul. While I waited on everyone else to pay, I carefully examined the dolls on display a little more and found some really remarkable ones:
Someone has some serious art skills, as seen here in these portraits of last year's presidential candidates, with current President Park Geun-Hye in the middle.
So good! I wish I could say these were mine...
We all really enjoyed our weekend afternoon at the Mustoy Café, and it was a perfect activity to beat this dreary patch of weather. Between its convenient Hongdae location and its proximity to lots of other great Seoul activities, I highly recommend spending a couple hours sipping on some coffee and decorating a little figurine. Not only will it keep you dry, but it's an offbeat way to relax from a week of teaching, and it comes with its own souvenir! I'm really looking forward to going back, actually. I'm feeling inspired by some of the impressive Mustoys I saw on the shelves... Next time you're in Hongdae and have time to kill, check it out!
Take the subway to Hongik University (Hongdae) Station, which is on Seoul Metro Line 2, the Airport Express Line, and the Gyeongui Line. Take exit 9, then make an immediate left into the street. You’ll take a right on the last possible street and follow that until you come to a large intersection. Once you reach the busy street, you’ll make a left, which is near a glasses store. You’ll pass a KB Bank as you walk up the hill, and then when you see a restaurant called Nolita, make a left. Walk straight up the hill, which will jag to the left a little, and keep an eye out for the sign, which will be on your right!
Have you been to Mustoy Café? Do you have any indoors rainy day activities to help us get through this monsoon season? Leave a comment below!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!