Growing up I’d begged my parents for a dog, heck I would have settled on a cat, but instead got guinea pigs.
While ticking the cute and furry categories, guinea pigs don’t really do anything, so I had to settle with going over to my neighbour’s house near nightly to play with her dog and pretend it was my best friend.
Hearing about Seoul’s quirky cafe culture I was determined to try to visit a few during my trip, but after spending the first days in Seoul feeling confronted by a steep language barrier, the coldest weather I’d ever experienced (oh, hello there -15°C) and the loneliness that sometimes creeps in while travelling solo, I knew the best cure was going to be surrounded by a bit of puppy love at Bau House, Hongdae’s popular dog cafe.
Once inside, I wasn’t disappointed as three dogs immediately raced up to me to suss me out and, I think, in search of treats.
It’s evident that the dogs are all extremely well-loved by the cafe staff, as a dozen well-groomed, and extremely well-behaved – well, except the one time one of the more hyper dogs stole a treat from right under the nose of a miniature collie and then teeth were bared – roam the cafe.
There are dozens of dogs to play with; a Golden Retriever, a Labrador, a Beagle, a Cavalier King Charles, a giant fluffy wolf-like dog that only wants to be friends when I had an open packet of treats, and other breeds that I couldn’t identify.
There were also other people’s dogs roaming the cafe, something I didn’t realise until after I’d spent half-an-hour cuddling up to a dog and the owner whistled for it to come so they could leave. In a city the size of Seoul there didn’t seem to be many doggy parks so Bau House is a place where locals can bring their dogs to play and socialise, providing they meet a list of qualifications.
Pet cafes are free but you are expected to buy at least one drink, usually at a premium price; but it does mean you can spend as long as you want in the cafe.
I paid around 7,500 won (AUD$7.70/GBP£4.30) for a coffee and a bag of dog treats cost that cost around 4,500 won (AUD$4.60/GBP£2.60).
For the time I got to spend with all of the dogs, particularly this little fuzz ball (pictured above) who kept checking in on me before being determined that he wanted to sit on my lap, and nothing I could do would stop him from returning to his ‘spot’, it was a small price to pay for the sheer happiness I felt.
Petting him gently I felt myself relax into my doggy surroundings. I love dogs and this pet therapy was the best cure for my travel loneliness – I mean, look at that face! It’s heart warming.
I spent half the night trying to get a decent photo of the little black and white dog (pictured above right). He was so full of energy and wanted nothing more than to cuddle for five-minutes, disrupting the other dog who had claimed my lap, before running off in hope of scoring a treat from another visitor or bringing back a slobber-covered tennis ball in hope I’d throw it again.
While cute as a button he did chew off the plastic zipper tags of my jacket – something I should have been more wary of because I didn’t notice until I was rugging up to leave and was met with fingers full of slobber.
You also need to be careful with your food and drink because I found out that some of them really like Oreo milkshakes after the plastic cap had been bitten off the cup and the straw long discarded!
That’s just a dogs nature though – playful and often cheeky.
The dog (pictured below) managed to sneak onto my chair without me noticing and buried his way into a nook under my winter jacket and next to my backpack. A big surprise when I went to put my camera away!
One thing that took me a while to get used to was the smell. It hits you as soon as you open the first door and just gets stronger, something unavoidable in a room of 12-or-more dogs, even when the staff quickly clean up any doggy mishaps!
All the doggy love and affection were blissful, even if sometimes you were only their friends while the doggy treats lasted.
My few hours of cuddles, pats and slobbery ball throwing – followed by a meal of Korean BBQ – seemed to do wonders to cure my travel loneliness… even if I did smell a bit ‘doggy’ for the rest of my trip.
Now it’s over to you:
Would you prefer to visit a cat cafe or a dog cafe?
Have you visited any quirky cafes?
Jeil Bldg. 1F
Seoul, South Korea
Address (English): 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. (Je-il Building, rear entrance, 1st floor)
Address (Korean): 서울특별시 마포구 서교동 394-44 제일빌딩 후면 1층
Website: http://bau.cyworld.com (inaccessible outside of South Korea)
Admission: Free, but you must buy a drink.
Drinks cost around 7,500 won (AUD$7.70/GBP£4.30) for a coffee and a bag of dog treats cost around 4,500 won ($4)
How to get there: Take the train or catch a taxi to Hapjeong Station and take Exit 3. Turn right and walk down the nearest road – Yanghwa-ro 8-gil – and you should see the sign for Bau House on the ground floor window of the building, or you can use this accurate map.
(Bau House has recently moved so there are a lot of outdated maps around, like the one on Eat Your Kimchi. I learnt this the hard way after spending two days searching for the new location!)
Where to stay in Seoul: I stayed at the Millennium Seoul Hilton. Like any Hilton, they offer a comfortable, spacious room with some of the best beds on the market. Furthermore, through the Hilton Honors program, I earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points for my stays and – as a gold member – I was upgraded at check-in, complimentary WiFi and breakfast, and had access to the Executive lounge during my stay.
What really won me over was the location of the Millennium Seoul Hilton. Located a short walk from Namdaemun, Namsan and the Namdaemun Gate, as well as plenty of cafes and shops.
If you stay at the Millennium Seoul Hilton, make sure your taxi doesn’t take you to the Grand Seoul Hilton which is located on the other side of town. I made the mistake and it was quite a costly one.
There are lots of hotels in Seoul, you can find more options here.
Where to buy love locks:
There are some love locks for sale at N Seoul Tower but they are quite costly and often come brandished with logos. I recommend finding some in the local markets, such as Namdaemum Market, which will offer you a better price and more varieties. Some will even offer to engrave the lock for a small fee.
Personally, I prefer ordering my own love lock from Amazon. They have a great range, are well priced and some sellers include the engraving in the cost! You can buy a love lock on Amazon here.