A few people have asked me about the puppy café I went to in Seoul, so this post will be covering the whole experience in detail. Hopefully you find it interesting, as I suppose it is quite a bizarre concept to the Western world…
Visiting a pet café had been on my South Korea Bucket List since before I had even committed to going to Seoul. Most Seoul dwellers live in small apartments that aren’t allowed pets, so thats how the whole pet café concept came to be. I was tempted by the cat cafés I saw in Tokyo, but let’s be real here, you’re kidding yourself if you honestly think that cats are more fun than dogs. Of course Seoul has a café to satisfy both the canine and feline inclined, but its not just pet cafés that are common. There is a smorgasbord of different themed cafés and restaurants such as the Hello Kitty Café, a Charlie Brown café, and even a café devoted to camping (this site lists a few great ones). I was easily able to find three puppy cafés within walking distance of my hostel alone, so I picked the one that looked the most inviting and got excited for some puppy love.
I can’t read Korean, so I have no idea what this place was actually called, but its in the Hongik University area (Hongdae), which is loaded with awesome things to see and do. Use Exit 9 from Hongik University station, walk straight ahead for one block, and then turn left. Walk straight up this hill. You should pass the tourist information centre somewhere on your left. Keep going (about 500m), until you reach the last set of traffic lights and you can see the university straight in front of you. Turn left, grab an egg bread from the smiley lady on the street, and walk straight until you see the puppy café sign. From the outside, you’d never guess that this ordinary concrete building is home to a pack of pups. The sign is the only clue.
Because I’m an idiot, I didn’t take a photo of the actual entrance, but once you’ve found the sign then its obvious where you need to go. Walk down the stairs and take your shoes off, placing them in the rack on your right. Put on a pair of trendy communal slippers.
It was at this point that I had no idea what to do next, so I waited in this little pen for one of the staff to come and sort me out. Eventually one of them noticed me. She pumped a generous amount of hand sanitiser onto my palms and showed me to a table in the corner. There were around only 20 seats in the whole café and most of them were taken up by young, Korean couples. I was given a menu and I placed my order. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the menu, but rest assured they serve tea, coffee, juice, soft drink and anything else you might require to quench your thirst. I got a peach iced tea, and it was delicious! Super sweet, just how I like it. This puppy café didn’t charge an entry fee, but buying a drink was compulsory. For that reason, the drinks were very expensive. My iced tea was around $7, which I easily could have bought for $2 at a stall on the street. As I understand it, this is the system at most of the pet cafés in Korea, so don’t arrive thirsty or you may end up spending much more than you’d like to.
I should point out that whilst the sign said “puppy” café and I’ve also been saying “puppy” café this whole time, none of the dogs were actually puppies. As far as I know they were all fully grown. Some of them were teeny tiny adorable little fluff-balls though, and they’re all very cute, so don’t let this put you off.
After you’ve acquired your tasty beverage, you’re all set! Grab one of the blankets that are probably already strewn all over the floor, and plonk yourself down. It might take a while for the dogs to warm up to you, for me it took about ten minutes before I had any of them coming to say hello. You can spend as long as you like playing with them, I spent about an hour and a half. If there are any rules, then they aren’t displayed in English and they weren’t explained to me, so don’t worry about them. My biggest piece of advice would be to go as early as you can. This café opens at 12:30pm, so if possible, get there at 12:30pm. I got there at about 4:30 and the dogs were already exhausted. Most of them just wanted to sit and be stroked, and weren’t interested in playing.
I don’t remember there being any sort of gross “dog smell.” It was very clean, and the dogs were calm and well behaved. They only barked occasionally when a new customer arrived. They’re all very friendly dogs, even if they are a bit tired.
All in all this was a really cool experience, and something fun and quirky to do in Seoul. I highly recommend it to anyone. I’m definitely not some crazy dog obsessed animal lover so don’t worry if you aren’t either. Give it a go, you might just make yourself a new best friend.
As I type this I am sitting on my rickety wooden chair on my balcony enjoying the sunset over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I’ve just spent five days in Bangkok, following my ten days in South Korea which I am only just getting around to writing about now. So for that, I apologise. I flew from Taipei to Seoul, spent five days there and then headed south to Gyeongju and Busan. Seoul is AWESOME. I loved it. A lot. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. The socks. Why has the rest of the world not caught up with the sock phenomenon that is going on in South Korea – especially in Seoul? There are tiny little sock shops all over the city that sell hundreds of the grooviest designed socks I’ve ever seen. And most of them are only $1 per pair!
2. The street food is delicious. Certainly not the cheapest street food around, but tasty none the less.
3. The café culture in Seoul rivals that of Melbourne. In Hongdae alone, there are dozens of coffee shops, with everything from large 2 storey chains like Starbucks or tiny, hole-in-the-wall boutique roasters like Coffee Prison (my recommendation).
4. I was given this half cheeseburger as a FREE SAMPLE!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!??!?!
5. Catching buses in foreign countries freaks me out because I never know where I am. Luckily, Seoul’s subway system is fast, clean, cheap and easy to use (with announcements in English). And the passes are cute.
6. Puppy cafes. Need I say more?
7. The shopping is out of this world. Whether you’re into t-shirts at dirt cheap market stalls, indie labels from independent young designers or the most luxurious brands are more your style, Seoul something for you.
8. They have guards outside the royal palace that are just like the ones outside Buckingham Palace in England, except they wear blue dresses. They aren’t allowed to speak or smile, or refuse to be in selfies.
9. Even though Seoul is modernised and full of the latest technology, its still not uncommon to see stuff like this around.
10. The airport is a great place for a snooze when you land late and you’re too cheap to pay for a hotel room.
One day when I have a uni degree and my life together, I can see myself joining the huge community of expat English teachers in this amazing city. I guess I’ll see you then, Seoul.