Written and photographed by Amy-Leigh Braaf
When I first arrived in Korea, four things stood out: how kimchi is served with every meal, how hospitable and motivated people are, the cherry blossoms, and coffee shops. Coffee shops in Korea are guaranteed to always provide comfort and intrigue, anywhere and anytime. With so much exposure to so many different types of coffee from Starbucks’ cherry blossom inspired café mochas to coffee in a can from nearby convenience stores, I found myself looking for more. I was in search of the ultimate coffee shop, one that blends the two things I am absolutely passionate about: cappuccinos and cameras. I present to you a coffee shop whose design is inspired by a red vintage camera called the Rolleiflex twin-lens camera: The Dreamy Camera Café.
Located in Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do, this coffee shop should have taken me three hours to get to from Daehwa Station; however, I am prone to getting lost and arrived there seven hours later. I had taken two buses, one subway, one train, and a taxi to get to this magical spot and back. I had gotten stuck in a storm, experienced a free K-pop street concert, and witnessed 70-year-olds standing on drums, singing karaoke in the street – all whilst waiting for a bus that would only arrive two hours later. But this was all worth the effort.
After arriving and stepping out of the taxi, I stood in awe in front of the shop. Taken aback by its idiosyncratic design and its welcoming aura, I took a moment to enter. As if I had been thrown into a retro Dr. Seuss novel, I looked around me, still holding onto the door knob. Next to this two-story shop was a quaint house that I found out was the humble abode of a married couple (the owners) and their daughter. The house and coffee shop were situated in the middle of luscious greenery and an open sky that looked as if it were experiencing daylight for the first time. There is only one word that can describe your first interaction with this quirky landmark, and that word is “surreal.”
Park Sung-hwan and his wife Kwak Myung-hee are both collectors of vintage cameras, which they keep on the shelves that surround the shop. They take photographs together when they have time, and one can find their stunning pieces hanging on the walls of their cafe. On each level is a giant hole in the wall, protected by a window that mimics the lens of the twin-lens camera. I walked into the shop hysterical with excitement and relief after my long journey, and I was welcomed with beaming smiles and unbelievable hospitality. It felt as if I had come home from university for Christmas to have my family offer me a warm cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake. However, this time I was offered a menu and a piece of paper asking me to write down my dreams with a selection of colorful pens to choose from, which they then printed into an A7 size for me to keep in my pocket.
I was shocked by their dedication to helping others. How can two people like these exist, I wondered. The happily married couple, with a hunger for art and pushing others to fulfill their dreams as they had, truly touched me. On the wall by the staircase, a picture hung of the original plan that they had of their Dreamy Camera Café, which took them three years to design and build. Every corner was filled with an aesthetic piece that filled up the shop to create its whimsical aura.
The circular windows created a wonderful illusion of looking through a lens, or even a picturesque photograph. Polaroids of previous visitors filled up sections of the wall like the initials we engraved on trees as children. Only in Korea will you find a menu as creative and heartwarming as the one I found here. Their tea selection consisted of Lady Grey, Winter Dream, Green Angel, Apple Refresh, and Sweet Raspberry; their side menu contained honey bread, cheese cake, Kaya toast with cheese, and tiramisu cake.
These two individuals inspired me to write down the things that I want and slowly work towards, illustrating them into becoming a reality. What an enchanting place that is guaranteed to give you an out-of-world experience and have you leave with a fresh perspective on how you experience that crazy thing called life. If you ever find yourself in Korea, and are willing to take a bus or two, go to the Dreamy Camera Café. You are sure to leave it feeling touched by its magic.
341-13 Jungwon-ri, Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do
Amy-Leigh Braaf is 22 years old and has a BA in film production and English literature from the University of Cape Town. She is currently living in Ilsan, Gyeonggi-do, and working as an English teacher. She has worked for The Varsity Newspaper in Cape Town, freelanced as an illustrator and filmmaker, had her own radio show, and even started her own baking business. However she feels the happiest when she writes about the stories she experiences along with the photographs she takes. Her passion for photography and art has grown upon her arrival here, and it has become a driving force in the way she lives my life and how she intends on capturing it.