When city name ‘Gwangmyeong’ is mentioned, the first thing that would pop up in my mind is IKEA. Because that is where the first store of the Swedish furniture making group was established in Korea and the store is always the main reason for me to visit the city. But not too long ago my purpose was diverted when I learned about the opening of Soha Gotaek (소하고택).
Situated away near Anyang Stream just before the main entrance of Sinchon Humansia Apartment Complex 1 (신촌휴먼시아 1단지아파트) sits Soha Gotaek, a Hanok coffee house that doubles as a potteries showcase. It cost me two visits to finally be able to get inside the cafe. My first attempt was on one bad Sunday. I came with zero acknowledgement that there are coffee places that close on Sundays. And Soha Gotaek is one of them. So I returned to the cafe the next day which I thought would be a good idea so the place would be less crowded. But boy! I was wrong again, the cafe seemed to be very popular already.
From the outside, Soha Gotaek appears to look like a cool private art studio with pieces of ceramics scattering all around behind its gleaming black walls. When stepping through the main gate, I was dazzled by the uniqueness of the spacious yard filled with grey-shaded pebbles (gravel garden) which is hardly seen in any cafe in Korea. There are two indoor seating arrangements and spaces adorned with patio furniture for those who enjoy the atmosphere outside.
Coming back to the two indoor facilities, they are spectacular but in absolute contrast in their design. The one closest to the entrance is where you go to make your order. It has such a modern exterior that goes very well with its minimalist decorating style. In this area, it is where the cafe’s ceramics are displayed and sold.
The second indoor, standing within a few steps away across the gravel garden, is my favorite seating area, the Hanok house. The intricate designs of the Korean traditional house tiled roofs and large glass windows that look out into the yard are the most impressive sights of this station of the Soha Gotaek coffee house.
Inside, there are tonnes of genuine household items from olden days in every corner showing that old is still beautiful. It is extra quiet here. No music in the background and people communicate in a close-to-whispering manner. And if you opt to sit around here you will get to see why. On top of every table in this house, there is a piece of paper taped to them having the same hand-written title of ‘the reasons why this place has no music’. It further says ‘Since the house is also run as a gallery that can be seated in, we decided not to play any music so that an individual’s appreciation shall not be disturbed. Because music can limit one’s thoughts and feelings, this is to allow people to take a leisurely look at the structural beauty of hanok and the objects on display’. This has to be the most thoughtful cafe instruction I have seen.
In terms of drink, you get the usual café standards. I got myself a usual cup of ice vanilla latte (6,000KW) and my boyfriend a regular iced americano (5,000KW) which did not disappoint us. The cafe also serves several desserts that can be seen in most Korean traditional tea houses. My pick was this good looking Garae-tteok-gui (grilled Garae rice cake) (5,000KW) which turned out to be pretty dainty as well.
All in all, my second attempt at visiting Soha Goteak in Gwangmyeong paid off very well. With a combination of traditional aesthetics, hipster vibes and instagrammable-factor, it’s definitely worth a visit. And it takes only 30 minutes by bus (no. 505) from Guro digital complex in Seoul. But the cafe is likely to get busy fast after it’s open so you should plan your trip accordingly. Oh and since the place is full of fragile items on display, no kids are allowed.
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