Behind a very nondescript door, to an even nondescript-ior building in Seochon-dong, lies one of the most amazing cafes I’ve ever been to. And we wouldn’t have gone in, but my partner in adventure, Phil, really need a break. Such a lucky break! (#punused #sorrynotsorry) I love Seoul in so many ways, but just randomly finding this treasure trove reminds me why Seoul is just the best.
Walking into Lhasa is like walking into an intrepid traveler’s basement full of wonder. You awe at the collection of stuff and dust and quietly wonder if the owner of such goodies is probably a nutjob. The bottom floor has memorabilia and antiques touching every nook and cranny. The small kitchen for coffee, beer or a bit of food is underneath a large staircase. There are records playing…real records on a turntable.
The upstairs remained a mystery for a bit as I drank my beer and admired everything. There was a sign on the stairs that lets patrons know that if you don’t buy something from the cafe, then there’s a entrance fee of 5,000 won. If you buy something, it’s free.
Phil went upstairs first to find the bathroom. When he returned, I asked him what was up there and he said, “some stuff on display.” Not helpful. I pressed harder. “Some antiques and things.” Okay, I thought, it is similar to what was downstairs. That ABBA record was definitely a beautiful antique. Sing it gals!
After my beer, I went on upstairs and…In the words of Blossom’s brother Joey, woah.
There were some antiques, sure. But most of what was there were older than antiques, they are artifacts dating very far back. There was jewelry, pottery and other items that dated back 3500-2500 BC. I was amazed and confused and curious all at once. Were they real? Replicas? Where were they from? Was this a real museum? I needed another beer and some answers.
Before we left, I had Phil ask the owner about her collection.
She explained that she has been collecting for years by going to China and buying things on the market that was once the infamous Silk Road. She further explained that it’s nearly impossible to purchase these items these days as they’ve put the clamp down on transporting rare and precious antiquities to another country. I’m amazed she got away with it for as long as she did.
As someone who believes that these kind of items should be available for everyone to see, I am happy that the owner has displayed the items for the public instead of hiding them away somewhere, or charging museums exorbitant amounts of money to showcase them, like many private collectors. I hope she will pass them on to a museum in her will for future generations.
This chandelier…holy cow.
If you change your mind…I’m the first in line…
The first floor with the kitchen.
The second floor with the museum.
Have you ever been in a cafe like this?
Lhasa Cafe & Museum
Address: 종로구 옥인길 69 | 69 Ogin-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul