Tag Archives: ramen

20 amazing things you must eat in South Korea

Sizzling barbecue, fresh seafood, refreshing desserts, and cuisine from around the world: Seoul has it all. There are so many delicious things to taste in South Korea’s capital city, it’s a good idea to make a list. From the most obvious choices (Korean barbecue!!) to some more obscure dining options, here are 20 things you absolutely must try:

1. Everything at a buffet

Loaded up with beef ribs, kimbap, spicy broccoli, salad, kimchi, japchae, pajeon, bulgogi and more. SCREAMfmLondon

A buffet is a good place to start! These restaurants are easy to find in Seoul and will allow you to pile your plate high with anything that appeals to you.

2. Pork belly at Korean barbecue

Korean barbecue on the grill. SCREAMfmLondon

Thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat are called 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal) in Korean, and this is the best meal you will eat. Each restaurant has a different style of seasoning and side dishes, so it’s not even boring to order this all day every day.

3. Street food

A Korean take on Japanese takoyaki in Myeongdong. SCREAMfmLondon

Seoul street food is incredible and inexpensive. In tourist-friendly areas like Myeongdong and Hongdae, the options are endless. You can find more traditional street foods (like fried chicken and egg bread), sweet desserts (like towering ice cream cones), foreign favorites (like water cakes and takoyaki) and everything in between. You can even buy street cocktails!

4. Kimchi and tuna on rice

Tuna flavored with kimchi and dried seaweed served with rice. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a quick, cheap meal you’ll find in a lot of small Korean restaurants. It’s called 김치 참치 덥밥 (kimchi tuna deopbap). It’s flavorful kimchi and meaty tuna and mixed with plain rice. Filling and delicious.

5. Green tea fondue

Green tea fondue with a side of green tea and strawberry drinks. SCREAMfmLondon

Osulloc makes and distributes the most famous green tea in Korea. In addition to an Osulloc Museum on Jeju Island, the brand has many tea houses and cafés throughout Korea. I definitely recommend the green tea fondue, which comes with strawberries, cookies and rice cakes for dipping, as well as a little candle to keep it warm.

6. Basil-infused ramen

Basil pesto-infused ramen at Ittengo. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a follow-up to my post about the best Japanese ramen in Seoul. At Ittengo in Hapjeong, the basil pesto-infused ramen is worth waiting in the line that wraps around the block. Dubbed Midori Kame (green turtle), this signature ramen is super rich and possesses a distinctive flavor.

7. Korean-style lunchbox

Korean school lunch featuring quail eggs, pickled cucumber kimchi and spicy soup. SCREAMfmLondon

In Korea, lunchboxes are referred to as dosirak (도시락). There are many different styles and infinite options for fillings, but they all usually consist of some rice, kimchi and several side dishes. You can find these at schools, in convenience stores and at restaurants around Korea.

8. Fish-shaped pastry

Bungeobang filled with raspberry and cream cheese. SCREAMfmLondon

One famous Korean street food item is bungeobang (붕어빵), a fish-shaped pastry. Traditionally, these are filled with red bean paste, but they can be found with any number of sweet or savory fillings.

9. Moksal at Korean barbecue

Different meats sizzling on the grill. SCREAMfmLondon

No, we’re not finished with Korean barbecue. Next on your list to try is moksal (목살), which is marbled pork chop or neck meat. Less fatty than samgyeopsal, this meat has a completely different and more hearty flavor.

10. Rolled ice cream

Rolled ice cream in Hongdae. SCREAMfmLondon

Ice cream comes in many styles on the streets of Seoul. Rolled ice cream is one trend that originated overseas and became popular among Korean street food vendors. Ice cream is combined with different ingredients like cookies and candies before being rolled up and served to customers.

11. Singaporean laksa

Laksa served at the Yummy Kampong Singaporean restaurant in Yeonnam-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Similar to curry, the broth is made with thick, spicy coconut milk and filled with noodles, seafood and vegetables. This interesting dish can be found in Seoul’s multicultural neighborhoods.

12. Curry

Yellow curry with rice served in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

In Seoul, one of the most popular commonly-eaten foreign foods is curry. From Indian to Japanese-style curry, this dish can be ordered many different ways in many different restaurants.

13. Waffle

Waffle on a stick filled with cream cheese and chocolate syrup. SCREAMfmLondon

Waffles are another Korean street food not to be missed. Nothing beats a piping hot, freshly-made waffle drizzled with your choice of delectable toppings: whipped cream, cream cheese, chocolate sauce, apples and cinnamon, etc.

14. Buffet at a Korean wedding

The amazing selection of foods at a wedding buffet in South Korea. SCREAMfmLondon

Not to be confused with a regular buffet, a Korean wedding buffet is an event all to itself. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Korean wedding, you’ll find that the ceremony is kept short and sweet before the guests are directed to an impressive buffet complete with all the Korean foods, Western foods, desserts and drinks you can imagine.

15. Fried rice

Bokkeumbap at a Korean barbecue restaurant. SCREAMfmLondon

Some Korean barbecue restaurants offer you the option of making bokkeumbap (볶음밥) or fried rice toward the end of your meal. Rice mixed with kimchi and other vegetables is added to the leftover meat on your grill, topped with dried seaweed and cooked until it’s a lovely shade of golden brown.

16. Tiramisu

Tiramisu in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

I don’t know why, but tiramisu recently became incredibly popular in Seoul. Trendy tiramisu shops popped up everywhere overnight, and now you can buy these delicious desserts in a wide variety of flavors on almost any street.

17. Udon

Udon noodle soup at a Korean restaurant. SCREAMfmLondon

Steamy soups are always a good choice on cold Korean nights, and I’ve recently grown pretty fond of Japanese udon noddle soup. The thick, chewy noodles give it a more filling feel, and the distinctive flavor of the broth is addicting.

18. Fried chicken

Fried chicken with a coating of sweet oats. SCREAMfmLondon

Korean fried chicken is definitely unique and tastes amazing. It’s lighter and crispier than Western-style fried chicken, and Korean restaurants are known to serve up some interesting flavors.

19. Bingsu at the sheep café

Adorable sheep bingsu! SCREAMfmLondon

You can kill two birds with one stone here: visit one of Seoul’s most famous themed cafés and taste some of the most delicious bingsu in town. Outside of the Thanks Nature Café is a pen with real sheep you can meet. Inside, the restaurant serves super adorable and very tasty sheep-shaped banana ice cream treats. You can’t go wrong!

20. Brunch

Brunch at One Bite Café in Hongdae. SCREAMfmLondon

Seoul is a very late-night city, so there’s not much going on in the early hours of the morning (unless you’re just heading from the club to grab some hangover soup, which is acceptable). Therefore, brunch is the perfect way to get a good start at midday. With all the cute, trendy cafés to choose from, there should be no trouble finding a great spot for brunch.

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The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Food: Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya

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Fantastic ramen at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Ichiran is the perfect restaurant for someone like me who likes to travel alone and eat delicious food at all hours without having to interact with mankind. This 24-hour Japanese ramen chain is famous for its tasty dishes and private, one-person booths in the dining area.

You can spot Ichiran’s Shibuya location from down the block because of the long line that winds up the narrow staircase and spills out onto the street. It moves moderately quickly as you inch your way closer to the red cloth signs hanging over the door.

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The ominous entryway to Ichiran. SCREAMfmLondon

Once inside the foyer, you insert money into a vending machine and make your initial ramen selection. The machine dispenses change and prints out a ticket.

While you wait for a seat to open up, you will fill out a worksheet about all the exact specifications of your desired bowl of ramen. The worksheet is super detailed and even offers suggestions, which I mostly took: medium-strength flavor, medium richness (oil content), regular garlic, green onion, sliced pork, half a serving of Ichiran’s original red sauce, and medium firmness for the noodles.

When a seat is available, you’re lead into the dining area. This is the best part. I love this set-up. I feel like every restaurant should be like this.

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The private ramen-eating booth for one at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Each diner is seated in an individual cubicle with high wooden walls separating you from the diners beside you and a thick bamboo curtain separating you from the kitchen staff. It’s just you and the ramen. When you’re ready to order, you ring a bell and slide your order sheet under the curtain. When the food is ready, they slide it back under. You never even see the chef’s face. It’s wild, and I love it!

There’s a little spout in the cubicle from which you can pour your own ice water, and you can even order extra noodles if you still have broth left after you finish.

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It’s so beautiful. SCREAMfmLondon

Have I mentioned that I love this restaurant? Because I love this. The ramen was delicious. The medium richness was perfectly spot-on, and the noodles and pork were tasty and flavorful. I wish I had gone a little stronger on flavor and definitely on the red sauce, which was not noticeably spicy. I would make some alterations to my ramen requests and add a soft-boiled egg next time, but Ichiran is certainly customizable enough. And all for about 800 JPY.

So private. So atmospheric. And nobody was there to see when I somehow dipped my hair in the broth. It was perfect.

Food: Korean burgers, street food and more

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Crispy Korean fried chicken is one of the finer things in life. This popular street food is a cup filled with popcorn chicken, tater tots and fried rice cakes covered in sweet and spicy sauces. SCREAMfmLondon

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“Texas” burger at Brown Grill in the COEX Mall leaves a lot to be desired. Neither the hamburger patty nor the cheese tastes quite right, and it’s bathed in spicy barbeque and horseradish sauce. Umami, I miss you! SCREAMfmLondon

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Delicious spicy ramen and sushi at a Japanese restaurant in Dongdaemun. SCREAMfmLondon

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A most famous Korean street food: gyeranbbang. The sweet bread filled with egg is perfect for breakfast. SCREAMfmLondon

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For dessert, an ice cream waffle from Angel-in-us Coffee. The ideal treat. SCREAMfmLondon

Capsule drama reviews: Pinocchio, Nineteen, etc.

‘Mary Stayed Out All Night’ (aka ‘Marry Me, Mary!’)
Starring: Moon Geun-young, Jang Keun-suk and Kim Jae-wook
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 16

mary

Photo courtesy of ACC Korea.

The bad news first: “Mary Stayed Out All Night” has the worst soundtrack. The show is supposed to be about indie rock, but all of the music is just terrible. The songs keep getting worse as the story progresses. If I had to listen to “My Precious” one more time, I was going to freak out. But the good news: Kang Mu-gyul looks really cute singing them. He looks really cute doing everything. He is the cutest. So I somehow managed to endure the soundtrack — even though that chorus of “She’s Mine” (“My woman, she loves me so very much! / My woman, she says I’m the greatest man she’s ever met!”) continues to haunt me.

The story follows Wi Mae-ri, who is out partying with her friends in Hongdae when she accidentally runs Mu-gyul (the stylish lead singer for a local indie band called Absolute Perfection) over with her car. They decide to get extremely drunk together and become fast friends, as you do when someone runs you over with their car. However, Mae-ri’s horrible deadbeat father has secretly arranged for her to marry a wealthy family friend, Byun Jung-in, and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So, Mae-ri enlists Mu-gyul’s help to pretend that she is already married — just until her father calls off the nuptials. As you can expect, hijinks ensue.

The first half of “Mary Stayed Out All Night” is much better than the second. I enjoyed the fashion and the bohemian aesthetic; I enjoyed the growing chemistry between Moon Geun-young and Jang Keun-suk; I enjoyed looking at Jang Keun-suk a lot. But the show became more frustrating as it went on: Jung-in was never fully fleshed out as a character, Mae-ri’s father never showed any redeeming qualities, and I was just sick of everybody’s inability to communicate. Ultimately, though, I still thought this was a really good find. But that awful music…

‘Nineteen’
Release Date:
Nov. 12, 2009
Director: Jang Yong-woo
Starring: Choi Seung-hyun, Lee Seung-hyun and Huh E-jae
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated

nineteen

Photo courtesy of CJ Entertainment.

“Nineteen” just so perfectly captures what it’s like to be 19 — the first of many years spent in the limbo between childhood and adulthood. It’s beautiful.

The movie focuses on three 19-year-olds from different walks of life. Seo Jung-hoon is kind of a slacker, satisfied with living at his parents’ house and working at a café. Park Min-seo is the meek rich boy who has a hard time interacting with other people and feels like he’s failed to live up to his parents’ expectations by not getting into a top college. Cha Eun-young just lost the hair stylist job she was using to support herself and her terminally ill mother in the hospital. The three of them are brought into the police station for questioning when a mutual acquaintance is found dead. They all feel as though the police aren’t listening and aren’t taking them seriously and are treating them like kids, so they miraculously escape police custody at the same time on go on the run together across South Korea.

It’s a fun adventure, and it’s infinitely relatable. What do you do when you’re on the run from the law? Compete in a rap battle and spend all your money on flamboyant sunglasses? Well, yeah, when you’re 19. It’s a pretty silly movie, but, at the same time, it speaks to the Millennials’ anxieties of growing up and finding a place in the world. And T.O.P performs a couple of goofy raps, so there’s that.

‘Pinocchio’
Starring:
Park Shin-hye, Lee Jong-suk and Kim Young-kwang
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Episodes: 20

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I laughed really hard at this scene on the bus. Photo courtesy of iHQ.

“Pinocchio” is a romantic drama with a very heavy-handed overarching message about truth. Sort of like an Ethics in Journalism class with a romantic subplot.

For allegorical purposes, the story takes place in a world where a “Pinocchio syndrome” exists that makes those afflicted hiccup when they lie. Choi Dal-po and Choi In-ha are adopted siblings (more or less) who both aspire to become TV news reporters for different reasons. In-ha — a Pinocchio herself — wants to follow in the footsteps of her estranged mother who has a reputation for being a heartless but powerful news anchor. Dal-po wants to get revenge on the reporter who destroyed his birth family by spreading a sensationalized story that blamed his firefighter father for the deaths of many of his colleagues.

The drawn-out, Hamlet-style revenge-seeking and uncovering of the past was the most intriguing part of “Pinocchio.” The actual romance was neither exciting nor really charming. Although, I do believe I am the only viewer who is in strong opposition to Dal-po and In-ha as the endgame “darling couple.” I was really rooting for Seo Beom-jo —the spoiled rich boy who actually showed tremendous character growth and was one of my favorites throughout. He learned so much, and, although he struggled with it, he was always a good guy at the end of the day. And he was not related to In-ha at all, which is a plus.

‘Flower Boy Ramen Shop’
Starring:
Lee Chung-ah, Jung Il-woo and Lee Ki-woo
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 16

flowerboys

Photo courtesy of tvN.

“Flower Boy Ramen Shop” is part one of the three-part “flower boy” series of dramas that also includes “Shut Up Flower Boy Band” and “Flower Boys Next Door.” This one is okay. I wasn’t that into it, but then I began to find Jung Il-woo very endearing, so I had to finish it.

It takes a while to even get to the ramen. At first, Yang Eun-bi is studying to become a teacher, but she quits after her father dies and leaves his ramen shop to her and some mysterious narcoleptic stranger he apparently wanted her to marry. Which she figures is just as well because teaching was getting weird considering the strange affair she was carrying on with one of her high school students, Cha Chi-soo, who is also (naturally) an extremely wealthy heir whose family controls the school. At the ramen shop, she and the creepy stranger who inserts himself into her life take a group of cute misfits from the high school under their wing to revamp the restaurant’s image.

First of all, I find it very annoying that Eun-bi just lets Choi Kang-hyuk burst into her life and make himself at home, despite all of the Very Binding Legal Documents That Are Clearly Written In Crayon he produces to prove his ownership. It’s not a very well-made drama, the acting isn’t that great, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Nonetheless, I guess I must be a sucker for cute rich boys learning the harsh realities of the world or something, because I still really wanted to observe Chi-soo’s personal growth and ensure that he and Eun-bi lived happily ever after.

I took a sightseeing tour of my own neighborhood

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The famed RastaBus. SCREAMfmLondon

I hear talk that sightseeing tours are a great way to explore unfamiliar neighborhoods in big tourist destinations full of historical landmarks, just like Hollywood. I wasn’t sure what I’d take away from one, considering I happen to live in the aforementioned big tourist destination full of historical landmarks that is Hollywood. Maybe I’d learn something new and come away with a fresh perspective? Maybe it would suck and be boring. I was down to find out.

I set off on an “A Day in LA” tour hosted by the RastaBus — a tri-colored van, carefully decorated with “One Love” bumper stickers and peace signs, that played one reggae song at the very beginning of the day.

At 10 a.m., we clamored onto the bus from our starting point at the Santa Monica Pier. It didn’t take long for my boisterous fellow riders to commandeer the sound system, start blasting “No Diggity” and pop open a few bottles of champagne. Whenever I’d previously encountered a RastaBus in the wild, the passengers have always been really drunk and exceptionally annoying. But the thing about annoying, drunk people is that it’s much more fun to be with ‘em than against ‘em. So, I filled a red Solo cup and kicked back as we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway.

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Brunch on the water at our first stop on the Malibu Pier. SCREAMfmLondon

Malibu

The first stop was definitely the best part of the whole damn thing, and it was totally an anomaly. This is kind of deluxe treatment is highly atypical for a RastaBus tour, I assume. I just happened to be rolling with some well-connected sightseers who managed to surprise us with a hook up for free food. Individual results may vary.

We were dropped off at the Malibu Pier, where we were served an elaborate array of breakfast food at Malibu Farm, a ritzy farm-to-table restaurant located at the end of the pier. After weaving our way through fishermen with their wriggling mackerels, we were escorted into the Surfrider Room, a private dining area on the second floor of the restaurant that overlooks the gorgeous Malibu beaches.

We were treated to fresh-squeezed orange juice and local syrah rosé wine. Quinoa oatmeal with pomegranate and chia seeds. Swedish mini pancakes with homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Vegan chop salad. Grilled chocolate and whole wheat olive oil cakes. And my personal favorite: a fried egg sandwich made with bacon, arugula and baby potatoes on top of country wheat toast.

Next time, I’d skip the rest of the tour and come straight here.

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Malibu Farm’s fried egg sandwiches that made it all worthwhile. SCREAMfmLondon

Beverly Hills

There was supposed to be a tour of celebrity homes, but we mostly just peered up at Will Smith’s and Prince’s houses as we headed back eastward on the freeway. Seriously, that was it. Oh, and the tour guide also pointed out some scenery that appeared in a panoramic shot of “Two and a Half Men.” You know, just the essentials.

We drove in abject silence to a backing track of old school East Coast rap (for some reason) toward Beverly Hills, where our driver shared some fun facts about Rodeo Drive and offered to let us stop to walk around for a while.

“Keep driving!” someone yelled from the front of the bus. “Unless anyone has a black credit card we can use.”

The Grove

We had a scheduled lunchtime stop at the Grove and Original Farmers Market, where we had about 45 minutes to explore by ourselves. It’s a cool place to hang if you have a pocket full of cash and longer than 45 minutes.

As we left the Grove, we took Melrose Avenue followed by Sunset Boulevard, and our tour guide finally began sharing some information about the area via the RastaBus intercom system.

I was glad to finally hear from him. I was beginning to worry that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, just as I feared, most of his information was pretty basic. Like, he explained who Judy Garland was. I kind of wished I was giving the tour myself; I’m full of useless historical and pop culture trivia. It took a lot of self-restraint to keep from interrupting his monologues.

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Griffith Observatory. Not pictured: nachos. SCREAMfmLondon

Griffith Park

Our next stop was the Griffith Observatory, where we were given another 45 minutes to wander aimlessly and not really accomplish anything. I must admit I was getting a little tired of being forced out of the pleasantly air-conditioned bus into the actual great outdoors.

Since there isn’t much science you can accomplish in 45 minutes, I headed straight for the café and emerged with a plate of nachos. The Café at the End of the Universe is significantly less cool than it sounds with a name like that, but they did sell me a plate of tortilla chips covered in fake cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo, so what more can you ask for?

Hollywood

Cruising through Hollywood, the tour guide actually shared some interesting information! Did you know that the blinking light atop the Capitol Records Tower spells out the word “Hollywood” in Morse code? I did not.

Shortly, my tourmates grew jealous of my uncanny ability to locate and devour nachos under strange circumstances, so they insisted that our driver stop at Chibiscus Asian Café and Restaurant on Sunset for some food. We called the restaurant from the van (“Hello, there are about 13 of us, and we’re coming in right now.”) and filled the entire small space with our raucous presence. I watched K-pop music videos while everyone else ate ramen.

And, then, very awkwardly, I said, “Hey… Would it be weird if I asked you to leave me here?”

They didn’t seem to think so, so I ditched the RastaBus and hiked back home by myself rather than sticking around for the ride back to Santa Monica.

And, well. I did learn the thing about the Capitol Records Building.

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View of my ‘hood from the RastaBus. SCREAMfmLondon

Here are some cool tours to take in LA that will circumvent the RastaBus experience:

Pamela Des Barres Rock Tour

Rock groupie Pamela Des Barres guides groups around Hollywood and Laurel Canyon, reading excerpts from her book, “I’m with the Band,” which details her escapades with Led Zeppelin and other classic rockstars.

Esotouric Literary LA Tours

Tour the hangouts of famous Los Angeles writers, including a jaunt to Charles Bukowski’s favorite liquor store, a Raymond Chandler-themed gelato shop and settings from James M. Cain’s “Mildred Pierce.”

Dearly Departed Tours

Creepy tours include the classic Tragical History Tour of celebrity death locations, the epic three-hour Helter Skelter tour of the Manson Family murder locations, and a horror movie location tour, among others.

Esotouric True Crime Tours

These morbid tours dig into LA’s most famous crimes, including the Black Dahlia murder, the serial killings of the Night Stalker and “hotel horrors” at hotspots like the Alexandria and the Cecil.