Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All Around Seoul: Insadong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Gwangjang, Myeongdong

Please forgive this writer for the long leave of absence. I was enjoying my spring vacation, of which the experience shall be shared in due time :) Now, back to my ramblings! 

This post is really about shopping. More often than not this refers to the open markets that we visited in Seoul. We skipped the shopping malls most of the time, except for Lotte Shopping Centre and Shinsegae Mall.

Insadong was more of the high-end type of the open markets. Nice the displayed stuffs may be, but you could bargain for better price somewhere else. My advice is to take note what you might wanna buy and get them at Namdaemun :P However this should not stop you from purchasing anything, in case you'd think that you won't get those cute little things again later. Better to be safe than sorry. 


What I'd recommend you to buy is the traditional Korean sweets. You'd see some 2-3 guys chattering to the crowd as well as each other telling stories about the sweets and their origin while making them at the same time. Charming! 

Insadong can be reached by Seoul Metro Line 1, 3 or 5 (dark blue, orange or purple colour): Jongno 3-ga station. 


Namdaemun (the market) was the place to shop for souvenirs and gifts. Nowhere else! It was a big area full of any merchandise you could ever think of. Some sellers even set makeshift stalls/kiosks up on the street. You could find things like t-shirts, jackets, brooches, luggage, cosmetics, pirated branded goods, food, etc. 



The atmosphere was lively. The people were friendlier and more accommodating when bargaining or explaining the things they were selling. I guessed they have seen more tourists at this side of the city. Some could speak little Malay/Indonesian too, although this didn't mean they're selling at cheaper prices. 

Namdaemun Market can be reached by Seoul Metro Line 4 (light blue colour): Hoehyeon station. 


Dongdaemun was such a large market place. There were shops in the buildings, alongside the road and also underground. Things for sale here were mostly clothes, textilebedding sets, household appliances, and shoes. I've got to highlight that the bedding sets sold here were really beautiful. If you choose the right design, people wouldn't have guessed that those come from Korea. I mean the floral motifs could really be universal. 



There's also a textile area that offered tailored-made hanbok. Since the range of textile was for the hanbok, the width of some cloth was narrow while some patterns could be too plain for our baju kurung. If you're looking for some Korean silk to bring home, you've got to really look for it coz it ain't easy. Still, I'm not saying it's not possible. I managed to find some :) 

Dongdaemun Market can be reached by Seoul Metro Line 1 or 4 (dark blue or light blue colour): Dongdaemun station. 


Gwangjang was the ultimate textile market, they say. The range of choice was wider, but not necessarily cheaper. I particularly heart the tastefully done bridal costumes <^_^>. The sellers could be very persistent, so watch out not to commit anything unless you're certain. Also, please don't ask them to display stuff with no intention to buy. They could get really unfriendly and scold you for being inconsiderate! In terms of bargaining, they were not so accommodating too. I dunno...if you have a better experience here please do share. 
Note on kdrama: Thorn Birds anyone? 



Gwangjang Market can be reached by Seoul Metro Line 1 (dark blue colour): Jongno 5-ga station. 


Myeongdong was a nice place to window shop. It was catered to the higher-end market but the prices were not unreasonable. Perhaps because we were done with our shopping mania, a stroll along the streets were enough for us. On that Sunday morning, there were many stalls set up on the streets on top of the already many shops. Korean cosmetics brands were aplenty. Food stalls, cafes and restaurants were conveniently located too. Pity we couldn't savour that part of the local culture.  
Note on kdrama: the Baskin Robbins, the entire lane...this was the place where Kang Shin Woo was on the verge to express his feelings for Go Mi Nyu before she hurried off to meet Hwang Tae Kyung (You're Beautiful drama)

Myeongdong can be reached by Seoul Metro Line 4 (light blue colour): Myeongdong station. 


Well, that about summarises the major shopping destinations (ahem, markets) in Seoul. In fact you can also shop at Itaewon, though I may have probably elaborated more on the halal food rather than the goods available there. Honestly, there are many many places to shop around depending on your style preference and budget. It's really not difficult nor expensive to be trendy in this country.

Note: For muslims, check the insoles when buying shoes coz most of them there are made from pig leatherskin. 

Another note: Don't start bargaining or asking too much details about the merchandise if you don't plan to buy. The shopkeepers usually do not have that much patience nor tolerance for such drama. Their thinking is "If you're not buying, why ask so many questions?" 

Happy shopping!! 

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