Saturday, October 16, 2010

Namdaemun Market

I’m certain every woman knows the sensation.  It’s the urge to shop.  After nearly 5 months of showing restraint, I was overcome.  I wanted to shop!

So, I decided to do some shopping Korean style.  I went to one of the country’s largest and most famous markets, Namdaemun Market.  It’s a maze of pedestrian streets lined by vendors with outdoor stalls.  You can venture inside too.  Each building is packed with an endless array of specialty shops.  One alley is just for bedding, another for stationary, and another for camera gear.  This list goes on.  A full day spent here only scratches the surface, considering there are 10,000 stores.  Nope, that wasn't a typo.

One benefit to market shopping is that you can find just about everything you need in one location.  You can also comparison shop.  After all, the vendors are lined up competing for your business.  And, then there are the bargain prices.  At the market, you can find some fabulous deals.  How about a sweater for $3 or a new purse for $10?  Yes, I picked up both!  I even fit in some Christmas shopping, because the market has some beautiful traditional items that are hard to find elsewhere.

But, Namdaemun Market isn’t just about shopping, it’s about the experience.  The vendors call out to the tourists and everyone wants to know where you are from.  One woman gave us a strange fruit that looked like a tomato from the outside and a sweet potato on the inside.  We stood in the street and ate them together.  Another shopper helped me pick out a fall coat ($10) and did some translating for me.  Later, a woman stopped us when she heard me say “thank you” in Korean.  She was so impressed!  Turns out she’s Korean American and just here for a visit.  These are just little moments in our day, but all stitched together they make for such an enjoyable experience.

We stayed late into the night – and we watched the market transform.  Makeshift restaurants with grills, tents, and plastic tables are erected in the middle of the street.  New merchandise appears along with some new sales.

The market is full of energy.  It’s authentic – this is where Korean’s do their shopping.  But, if you’re a tourist, this is also a must-see in Seoul.

(Directions to Namdaemun Market:  Take subway line #4 to Hoehyeon Station.  Take Exit 5, which will put you right at the market entrance.)

This is what the vendors' stalls look like -- crowded and overflowing with merchandise.

Searching for some shirts.

Namdaemun transforms as night.  This is one of the makeshift restaurants set-up for the evening.  Namdaemun is a great place to try traditional Korean dishes.

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