Dog (and cat) cafés!
Yes, you read that right. Shortly after arriving in Seoul, a friend took me to one of the local dog cafés in Hongdae. It is exactly what it sounds like. A café that is home to a load of dogs, or cats, or both. You go there, order a drink and stroke a dog. Sometimes, it is a waiting game of seeing which dog will mosey on down to see you, sometimes people cheat by buying treats, and, every now and then (depending on the café), a dog may walk across your table. It is both delightful and sad at the same time. Delightful because you are living in a small apartment in the middle of a bustling city and there is no chance that you may own a pet any time soon, sad because it's not really the life a dog should have. Some cafés act as holiday homes for dogs, and so that tenants/play pals can change between visits, and sometimes people bring their own dogs with them to socialise with other dogs. I went to the same dog café three times, but upon the third time the buzz of seeing all the dogs run riot came to an end and, upon seeing one of the workers at the café poorly handle a dog, the reality of it sank in a little more. That is not to say that all dog cafés are like this, I have a very limited experience to speak from and that one employee was the only person guilty of treating the dogs with a lack of respect. I would not rule out visiting another café in the future, I just wouldn't go back to that one or make a regular habit of it.
|Taken on my first visit after being in Seoul only a week or two. This dog came over almost as soon as I sat down and decided that my lap would be a good place to go to sleep.|
A few months later, I visited a local cat café and that was much better. I believe it was called Tom's Cat, and it was a cat heaven complete with climbing frames lining the ceiling and walls. The good thing about the cat café was that the owners had had the foresight to organise a system of coloured bibs that told you the temperament of each cat. Upon arriving at the café, you were handed a leaflet and asked to read it (whilst they fetched the drink you had ordered). The leaflet explained the bib system and explained the rules for people behaviour whilst visiting the café. Under no circumstances would pestering of the tenants be tolerated. I thought that place was brilliant, and the atmosphere was a lot less manic than that of the dog café. Another blog post about the café, with photo of the outside of it, can be found here. Again, it is not a dream life for a cat, but life could have been a lot worse for those moggies.
|The climbing frames and hidden beds for the cats were really impressive.|
|Sensible cat, getting some alone time up high.|
In Hongdae, home of everything weird and wacky, there is even a sheep café! It's called Thanks Nature Café and it is a great little escape from the madness of Hongdae. You go down some steps to the lower level of a restaurant complex and there you find a small sheep pen and enclosure (including a large fake tree) outside a café. The sheep are incredibly well cared for, and are possibly the softest sheep you will ever touch (they MUST be groomed). They change yearly, when I last visited they were called Bebe and Nino, and the previous ones were Café and Latte. The owner is this great chilled out guy who checks on the sheep often, and draws their pictures. You sometimes see him walking them down the street or loading them onto a sheep trailer to go home. The café is great too, a really nice and chilled place. Of course, this is not the ideal life for a sheep, but selfishly I enjoyed going there very much. This blog post will show you the location of the café.
The last animal related café I can think of, that I visited, is the Dr Fish café in Gangnam. If you've been to a fancy spa, or just any city in Asia, you may have heard about the treatment for getting dead skin removed from your feet that involves sticking your feet in a pool of water filled with fish? Well that's what Dr Fish is. It is a great big café that you can visit. It has nice drinks and food, free unlimited toast and biscuits (but you must eat everything you take or else you get a fine) and then, for a measly few thousand won (it's roughly 1,420 won to £1) you can get your dead skin nibbled away by fish (Garra rufa fish to be exact). I think there were a whole host of treatments (not all of a fishy variety) available, but this was the reason we went. It's been about two years (how time flies) since I was there, so excuse any rusty information.
|It REALLY tickled...|
That's it for now, I was only meant to write about the dog café but look what happened! The one thing I loved about Seoul was that you would constantly stumble upon, or hear about, a new quirky place to go try brunch, eat waffles, drink bubble tea or try a green tea latte. They really go all out with their cafés and each one tries to have something different about it to draw you in. I could write a whole book about them, so I will stop myself there. Thank you to Jenny and Yenny, from whom I have borrowed some photos.