Culture

9 Ways I Felt At Home In South Korea

During a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, I was astonished by how much Koreans love Mexican culture. I must admit that I was a little bit nervous about going to Seoul. With more than 24 million people living there, Seoul is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Would I fit in, or would I have a big “tourist” stamp on my forehead? I didn’t speak the language and never learned to use chopsticks (don’t judge!). But when I heard that one of the most highly rated restaurants in the city was a taco place, I knew I would love it there.

For starters, if you Google “best place to eat in Seoul,” Vatos is high on the list.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

If the name didn’t give it away, it’s a Mexican restaurant. I had fish tacos and carne asada fries and they were so good – and I should know, I’m from Cali. Their classic margarita was also legit.

So how much do Koreans love Mexican food? Check it out — these eateries are everywhere!

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

This is something like the El Pollo Loco of Seoul. You can’t go wrong with Mexican chicken.

And these taco joints are also sprinkled all throughout Seoul.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

I spotted them everywhere. It was hard to eat local Korean food when so many awesome Mexican restaurants were around!

They also have incredible street food. This is a quesadilla/empanada with an egg.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

Lettuce, pork, cheese, and cream. It’s insanely good.

I didn’t see any eloteros, but I found these packaged elotes.

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CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

I found these treats at a convenient store. They’re perfectly packaged, too.

Churros are also a big thing in Seoul.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

They have a huge variety of sizes, different shapes and chocolate dips too!

Not only are Koreans into Mexican food, they also appreciate Mexican-American pop culture. If this Speedy Gonzalez doesn’t prove that, I don’t know what will.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

Koreans are famously known to be fashion trendsetters, and I saw this jacket a cute boutique in the Gangnam District. If you’re not familiar with this uber-cool area, perhaps this pop hit song will make you want to visit.

And I almost died when I caught “La Bamba” on TV.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

This was a great way to learn a few words in Korean.

They have really great open markets, known to us as swap meets or mercados.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

There are three major open markets in Seoul, which are Namdaemun market, Gwangjang market, and Garak Market. With tons of food, clothing, and products, these swap meets are a great way to get a real taste of local culture. Each one is very different but they all have one thing in common: you can get anything you could ever want at a very good price.

Thanks, Seoul, for making me feel at home. It’s like I never left L.A.

Araceli Cruz
CREDIT: Araceli Cruz

Visiting Seoul made me realize that I shouldn’t be intimidated about experiencing new cultures because surprisingly enough, our commonalities are immense!


READ: 9 Stressful Moments Every Latino Experiences When Traveling With Their Family

Have you traveled lately? Share this story and let us know about your latest adventures abroad in the comment section below. 

The Natural Wonders Of Mexico Are Straight Up Out Of A National Geographic Dream

Things That Matter

The Natural Wonders Of Mexico Are Straight Up Out Of A National Geographic Dream

Hierve el Agua Natural Petrified Rock Formation in Oaxaca, Mexico / Pintai Suchachaisri / Getty Images

So, it’s the end of summer break, and it’s back to the daily grind. Or is it? After all, spring break will be on its way in no time! And you know what that means? You’ve got time to travel, babes. We know you want to go to Mexico, so we’ve saved you the hard work of researching where the best places are to go in Mexico to see it in its natural glory.

Find out where you should go next with our list of natural wonders in Mexico!

1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco

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Being the largest freshwater lake Mexico has to offer, Lago de Chapala is one hella gorgeous body of water to spend your time around. It’s home to thousands of indigenous plants and animals, which means that it’s just teeming with unique wildlife that’ll liven up your ‘gram. That being said, you should be aware that the lake is also a sacred location for the Huichol Indians of Mexico’s southwest – so make sure you’re respectful!

2. Nanacamilpa, Tlaxcala

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We’ve written about the wonders of Nanacamilpa before, so of course, we have to mention it here, too. It’s home to a forest just filled with fireflies when it’s warmer, setting the place aglow with their tiny butts. The locals are working on preserving the firefly population, so it’s best to follow the rules when you’re on tour for the fireflies: no using your phone, and no talking.

3. Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca

Instagram / @clickbusmx

Hierve el Agua has one of the strangest optical illusions that will have you questioning your existence. Is it a waterfall, or a rock formation? If you chose rock formation, you’d be right! The mineral pools in the area are absolutely gorgeous, and not too far from ancient canals that are thought to have been built by the Zapotecs around 2,500 years ago.

4. Copper Canyon, Chihuahua

Instagram / @coppercanyons

The name “Copper Canyon” is a little misleading – it’s not one, but a group of six, canyons. The copper part, though? No, actually, that’s also misleading. The area’s known more for its gold and silver deposits. It’s the copper-green of the canyon walls that give Copper Canyon its name. One of the best times of year to visit is usually just after the summer’s rainy season since that’s when the upper region of the canyon blooms with wildflowers – so it’s time to get the ball rolling and make your way there!

5. Marieta Islands, Nayarit

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Formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, the Isalas Marietas are a group of small, uninhabited islands just off the coast Mexico. It’s popularity as a tourist destination springs largely from two things: the famous “love beach”, or Playa del Amor, and the fact that the islands have an abundance of marine life just chilling around its waters. Fishing and hunting are prohibited by the Mexican government here, so leave your fishing gear at home.

6. Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas

Instagram / @miamadomexico

Cañón del Sumidero is a deep natural canyon which formed around the same time as the Grand Canyon in the US, meaning that if you’re looking for an impressive canyon in Mexico, this is it. Funnily enough, about 80 percent of the visitors to the Sumidero Canyon are Mexicans themselves, who go for the eco tourism and extreme sports. If you’re less keen on hanging around the water, you could try seeing the Ruins of Berlin, which are also located in the Sumidero Canyon.

7. Espíritu Santo Island, Baja California Sur

Instagram / @afelandrina

The last time that there was a proper human presence on Isla Espíritu Santo was estimated to be around 9,000 years ago. Whew. More recently, UNESCO declared the site a Biosphere Reserve in 1995, and for good reason: it’s the only known habitat of the black jackrabbit. Plus, the Ensenada Grande beach on Isla Partida was voted the most beautiful beach in Mexico by The Travel Magazine, making Espíritu Santo Island a must-see.

8. Rosario Sanctuary, Michoacán

Instagram / @laurelkent

Otherwise known as El Rosario, the sanctuary is part of a larger world heritage site known for hosting literally millions of butterflies. The reserve is dedicated to preserving its butterfly population, which means that the Rosario Sanctuary is only one of two colonies in Mexico that’s open to the public. Guided tours are on offer, so it means that you can learn more about beautiful butterflies that frequent the area.

9. Nevado de Toluca, State of Mexico

Instagram / @sebamoraleshinojosa

Nevado de Toluca is the fourth highest peak in Mexico, after Pico de Orizaba, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Classed as a stratovolcano, it boasts two crater lakes on the floor of the basin – the Lago del Sol and the Lago de la Luna – which were created by the volcano’s melting snow. While you’re in the area, look up the Nahuatl legends that explain the mythology behind why Nevado de Toluca looks the way it does.

10. Cenotes, Quintana Roo

Instagram / @mochilerosquintanaroo

These jaw-dropping, gorgeous sinkholes, created by the collapse of limestone rock, can be found throughout the state of Quintana Roo. That’s not all there is to see in Quintana Roo, considering that it’s got a coastline that serves as one of the best manatee habitats in the world. But, visiting the cenotes is a good start, if you really want to experience the beauty of Quintana Roo.

11. Potrero Chico, Nuevo León

Instagram / @gnarbox

Rock climbing aficionados, this is the place for you to be! Potrero Chico boasts peaks which stretch to around 2,000 feet, and have some really amazing views at the top. While a lot of the area around Potrero Chico is considered a protected zone, it’s not an actual national park, which means that there’s not as much conservation happening in the area as what there could be.

12. Chinampas, Mexico City

Instagram / @kilaceruti

The Valley of Mexico still has plenty of chinampas, or island farms, that can be seen today. The agricultural practice has been around for almost a thousand years and is unique to the area. These days, produce such as lettuce, cilantro, spinach, cauliflower, celery, mint, chives, rosemary, corn and radish are grown in the chinampas. Whether you can actually try them straight from the chinanmpa is another matter!

13. Las Coloradas, Yucatán

Instagram / @demirkazik

You’re probably less interested in the actual fishing village, and more interested in touring the pink – yes, pink – lake and salt flats surrounding Las Colaradas. It’s entirely possible that you’ll see flamingoes while you’re hanging around the lagoon, so keep your bird-watching binoculars on you at all times!

14. Basaltic Prisms, Hidalgo

Instagram / @mexicodestinos

The Basaltic Prisms of Santa María Regla are basically the Mexican version of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, except that the Basaltic Prisms also have two waterfalls running through it. The natural canyon, which was created by the slow cooling of volcanic lava, has been modified with stars, walkways, and bridges so that tourists can easily access the Basaltic Prisms. It’s basically made for you to come and visit!

15. Tamul Waterfall, San Luis Potosi

Instagram / @ebtravelturismo

The Tamul waterfall is known for its gorgeous, crystal-clear water that’ll make you never want to leave. At 344 feet, the waterfall is one of Mexico’s largest, and is usually accessed by boat. How. Heckin’. Awesome.

So where will you be heading next? Tell us about it on Twitter – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

Here’s Why Chicago Should Be On Everyone’s List Of Must-Visit Cities

Culture

Here’s Why Chicago Should Be On Everyone’s List Of Must-Visit Cities

noorhalii / Twitter

If you don’t have Chicago on your bucket list, you’re sleeping on the vibrant metropolis.

The city has an enviable lakefront that runs 18.5 miles along the city skyline, a museum campus (and a number of other art and educational institutions nearby) that you could visit for years and still find something new, and dining options that run the gamut from Michelin-starred to hole-in-the-wall mom and pop shops. 

If that’s not enough to get your there, this might be:

For $2.25, you can take the CTA train into the city.

Credit: boje.gardel / Instagram

Whether you’re flying into O’Hare or Midway, each airport offers a direct route into downtown Chicago. From there, you can easily transfer to any of the other train lines, buses or Metra (servicing the suburbs) to get where you’re going and oftentimes, get downtown just as fast as driving. Save yourself the headache of traffic and trying to find your rideshare—as well as cash—by taking the train into the city. Once you’re there, hop into a cab or transfer like a local.

Speakeasies and Cocktail Bars Aren’t Just a Fad

Credit: erikmarthaler / Instagram

They’re a historical part of the city. In 1921, the bar now known as The Green Door Tavern opened as a restaurant. Over the years, the restaurant was sold and renamed the Green Door Tavern. During prohibition, a green door would let people know that they could find a speakeasy inside. According to the Green Door Tavern’s website, many of the original fixtures found at the bar are from the 1920s. It’s easy to get caught up in the history of the first floor, but if you keep walking towards the back, and take the steps into the basement—you’ll find a woman with an iPad next to a bookshelf. Leave your name, head back upstairs and wait for The Drifter to call you. Once IDs are checked (again) you’ll find yourself in a tiny room that feels like you’ve stepped into an old-timey circus. Tarot cards are used as drink menus, you can play drink roulette by selecting a $10 fortune cookie that contains your drink order and every hour a different performer takes the stage. It’s easy to imagine one of Al Capone’s cronies posted at the bar grabbing a drink between jobs.

But The Drifter isn’t the only speakeasy worth visiting. In Wicker Park, The Violet Hour, considered the birthplace of artisan cocktails in Chicago, is worth the wait. Just be sure to follow the house rules.

Comedians Are Made in The Second City

Credit: bougiestl / Instagram

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mike Meyers, Steve Carrell, Chris Farley, John Candy and most of the funniest names in entertainment came out of world-renowned The Second City, a comedy club, theater and school of improvisation.

To date, it has not produced a Latinx show on its mainstage (a disappointing trend in entertainment). However, actress/producer Vanessa Garcia is working to change that with “La Carne Asada 2: The Seasoning,” performed inside the venue’s Judy’s Beat Lounge. The sketch show for Latinos by Latinos is performed mostly in Spanish with deeply Latino characters and tropes. It sold-out its summer show dates and recently added new fall dates.

Garcia was inspired to write a sequel to last year’s sold-out run of La Carne Asada after a conversation that implied that Latinx content was not headlining stage material. With that in mind, the show is a statement about quality Latinx-centric and minority-centric content being as entertaining, engaging and mainstream as any headline show.

It’s a Magical Place—No Really, Magicians Are As Common As Bartenders

Credit: themagicparlour / Instagram

In a profile piece on magicians for Chicago, Kevin writes about how the art of magic is taught mostly from books, and Midwest Magic in the suburbs is one of the largest magic shops in the world. It’s no wonder there’s been an uptick in magic-themed venues and entertainment. For an intimate, upscale experience head to the Magic Parlour at the Palmer House Hilton. In one of the gilded rooms, you’ll see close-hand magic performed by Dennis Watkins.

To see several acts in one place, head north to the Magic Lounge. The entrance is marked by a sign that reads ‘laundromat.’ Walk inside and start enjoying your night with a drink at the bar where a raised platform features a magician while you wait for your show to begin. Once ushered into the seated venue, various magicians will rove the aisles to keep guests entertained before the start of the first act.

Latino fans will get a kick out of Luis Carreon. The award-winning magician peppers his act with jokes that riff on Mexican culture.

It’s A Sports Fan’s Dream

Credit: andchv_ / Instagram

Between the Cubs and Sox (MLB) rivalry, Bears (NFL), Bulls (an NBA franchise synonymous with Michael Jordan and six league titles), the Sky (WNBA) and three recent titles between the Blackhawks (NHL), sports are an integral part of the city’s DNA—and that’s just the professional teams found within the city limits. Head to the suburbs if you want to see the Red Stars (MLS) play. It’s worth the drive considering four members of the Women’s World Cup Championship team play for the local league. The Chicago Fire, the men’s team, also plays at the same venue.

Even if you prefer a different type of entertainment, you’re not really experiencing the city if you don’t have some kind of sports encounter. Worst case scenario, you can eat really well since all the stadiums have local dining options in-stadium—like Big Star at the United Center where the Bulls and Hawks play— which is also across the street from the Cubs’ Wrigley Field.

READ: A New Incubator Is Opening Up In Chicago’s ‘La Villita’ And Will Embrace The Neighborhood’s Mexican Heritage