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SEOUL 101: Gangnam, Dongdaemun & Wet Markets

June 25, 2010

Sorry for the lack of updates, I have been so busy with work that I haven’t had the time nor energy to blog (for example it’s 1:19am, I have to wake up in 6 hours, but here I am). But, thankfully, I have had the energy to head out and fill my life with little explorations of Seoul. I just wish I had more time in a day to record the day’s happenings down in my journal because right now, I’m clearing backlog.

So I went to Gangnam last Friday with Silvia because she was feeling restless and because we had gotten so tired of eating the same ole 자짱면 in the Global Haus (I love the casual use of German, btw). We had gone there the first day we met with our little Orientation group but this time around, we really explored the shopping area.

Crossing the street at Gangnam

Gangnamgu-yok is the busiest train station in Seoul because it is one of the largest transit points. I don’t know the geography of Seoul well at all but Gangnam-gu is huge. This is just a tiny area around the Gangnam station.

ZIOZIA - a really cool shop selling hip, urban outfits. My Italian friend also casually mentioned that it means "Uncle & Aunt" in Italian. Way to go, branding team.

Of course, you can’t come to Asia without oogling at cutesy stationery! I honestly miss creative, pretty Asian stationery when I’m in the dull and doldrum-like stationery stores of the West. Boo, STAPLES. You are boring. I always stock up on stationery before I leave for the States because I know I’ll be stuck with expensive, fat-nibbed G2 pens (or worse, ballpoints) and nobody in their right mind would want that after trying out Asian stationery. I lent this random American girl my pen in a lecture once and she jotted down its name and brand and pen nib size afterwards, saying that she would gladly pay for it.

But of course, Asian stationery stalls are not limited to just adorable notebooks!

They sell cute little potted plants and cacti. In a cute little shelf. Awww.

A couple looking at clocks. Argh, I really wanted to buy one that changed its time by flipping placards!

World cup fever! Cheerleaders supporting the Korea vs Argentina game...5 days in advance or something like that.

Korean girls walking by Giordano's advertisement full of Korean popstars

World cup fever has swept Korea intensely. I have been to every match since the first, so that’ll be a post for another time. The best experience so far was probably camping out at the Hangang (Han River) to watch the heart-stopping, nail-biting match between Korea and Nigeria, which we tied in – therefore we are in the quarterfinals now. Will be watching Korea vs Uruguay on Saturday! Jackie just emailed me today to tell me she is in Uruguay for Cornell summer school – what a coincidence! And she’ll be heading to Brazil soon, that lucky girl!

So last Saturday, I went to Dongdaemun with Silvia, Pearly and Asako. We were joined by Pearly’s friend from AMEX, Jason, a true-blue Korean. He brought us to where no tourists nor youths go – the authentic side of Old Korea – a wet market (광장시장). I really enjoyed being there because it’s really local and everything is very cheap! It was a prime spot for photo-taking because everything was so colorful!

At the entrance to the wet market 🙂

Unlike Singapore, Korea’s wet markets are not divided into wet and dry sections. They are all clumped together, so you can be eating kimbab at a store and they’ll be chopping up fish behind you. The wet markets also sell random household items, such as pillows, buckets, dried fish, wedding flour cakes (crafted amazingly like real fish etc.) and, of course, hanboks.

Asako outside a hanbok shop in the wet market.

When you come to Korea, you realise they have alot of their own cultural desserts, such as rice cakes. There’s actually alot of things here, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

A Korean sweets shop

At a fish stall: they sell every single kind of fish, even little octopi (what a cute word, octopi).

A sight to behold - piles upon piles of ajumma shoes! I wonder if they can ever find the other shoe?

Dried fish - they sell this everywhere in Korea. Don't really know what it is for, though. I guess it's supposed to be some kind of flavoring? Maybe like what ikan bilis is to us, except a bigger version.

...Must not taste really good, even the cat isn't making beeline for the strings of fish just inches away from him.

My roommate tells me this is called 천. There are many different kinds, such as those with kimchi, with spring onion etc. They are deep fried in centimetres of oil and served steaming hot off the pan. Each costs 4,000원.

A friendly ajosshi toasting me with his 천

Another hanbok stall! I have seen so many around Seoul but I haven't seen any customers in any of them.

Apparently this guy comes and plays the saxophone for a few minutes everyday in this market. We were lucky to catch him for the period of time we were there. He is so cute, his cheeks are bright pink like a Chinese doll's!

Typical Korean wet market scene: Ajosshis sitting down for a hearty dinner of pig intestine sausages.

At a fresh seafood stall! 🙂

We had dinner at this food stall (above). We ordered kimbab, ddokboki, fishcake soup, pig intestine sausages and japchae. It was my first time eating kimbab and it was alright. I tried other kimbab after that and found the one at Yongsan the nicest – they have beef, tuna and cheese kimbab. There’s also gochu (pepper) kimbab but after my horrid run-in with the 비빔냉면 at Insadong, I’ve been pretty scared of gochu. This is coming from the girl who eats chilli padi like no tomorrow and grew up with Indian food every weekend.

This is the same 청계천 that I blogged about the last time. This 6km river runs all the way to Dongdaemun – imagine my surprise at running across this very same stream. I actually enjoy this view of the 청계천 much more than the last time I went simply because the buildings around this area are much more rustic and adds to the flavor of the whole place.

This is possibly my favorite picture of the lot. It looks like Seoul from the 1970s or something.

I found the tiles on the floor really interesting – not like I understand what they really mean but…hahaha, o well.

The historic Dongdaemun gate. The area within four gates (북,남,동,서) delineates the ancient Seoul capital, formerly known as Han-Yang (한양), and is a constant reminder to Korean Seoulites about the rapid economic progression of their country and what they have to be proud of. 남대문, the oldest wooden structure in Seoul and Korea’s #1 National Monument was destroyed by an old ajosshi, 채종기, who set it on fire sometime in February 2008. He later made a public apology. The restoration of 남대문 is a three-year project with a cost of somewhere near 20 billion won. I remember Song SSN telling us about this incident last semester and I always thought it was a puny gate, like the ones outside big houses. I didn’t realize the majesty of the gate until I saw it in person. My heart honestly felt torn when I actually saw 동대문 and therefore could more clearly imagine the historical importance of 남대문 to the Korean people. I heard the arsonist actually got away scot-free because he made a public apology.

Okay so afterwards, we just did as girls do (except for Jason, he loves shopping) and went SHOPPING! (does white chicks finger wave) Nothing much except I cut my hair! Woooo, first Korean haircut!

Just kidding! It’s a wig shop!

I always have to leave on the note of some food. This was the dessert that 5 of us shared. Pearly was like, “I promise you – it’s better than ice kachang!” It is! But it’s also 10 times as expensive! That said, it was giganormous. Here, feast your eyes on its splendid glory:

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2010 9:48 pm

    lol why are your photos so desaturated 😐 sorry, that’s the first thing I noticed but still jealous about the travelling and eating nice food. rawr.

    • June 25, 2010 10:48 pm

      haha it’s on purpose! i actually pretty like the look of it looking old 🙂

  2. Danielle permalink
    June 26, 2010 12:49 am

    I’ve actually been reading all your blog posts and just not commenting cuz I’m a creep. LOL -____- jk anyway I must reiterate how jealous I am. I realized the other day that you were there for the world cup and how much awesome fun that must be!

    and lol! is that 팥빙수? I had some in a bakery (o.O) here in NYC… I couldn’t seem to get into it. ice cream and fruit seems wrong to me. XD

    I’ve heard of ice kachang too though. I wonder if I’d like that better. all the singaporean fans told WG to try it when they went to SG lol.

    p.s. I’m really glad you didn’t cut your hair like that cuz I was like “O___o omfg… ajumma haircut…”
    p.p.s. know what’s funny? in asia you call stationery anything you write with or on (I think), but here stationery is usually only paper… like .
    p.p.p.s loving the giordano ad. I’m stopping now…

    • June 26, 2010 2:31 pm

      haha I can’t rmb what it’s called in Korean. ice kachang is smaller, it’s just shaved ice with colored syrup and underneath that mountain of ice is red bean, various kinds of jelly, and attapchee (<- very awesome). the best part is that it costs only 60 cents. this one we had cost 8,000 won (approx 8USD).

      • Danielle permalink
        June 28, 2010 2:27 pm

        (ugh my link failed hmphhh, wordpress html is weird)

        and OMG that’s only 60 cents?! O_O yeah, patbingsoo is like… way more expensive lol… it’s like $12 here in NYC -_____-

  3. permalink
    June 26, 2010 2:26 pm

    haha, your autocorrect-er is here again.

    it’s “전” as in “김치전” not “천”.

    • June 26, 2010 2:27 pm

      LOL i seriously laughed. i really can’t hear the difference.

  4. 윤기 permalink
    June 27, 2010 11:38 am

    the pig intestine sausage thingy is called “순대” by the way, you should try the “오징어 순대”, its awesome. its the same as the normal 순대, but the fillings are filled into squid/octopus rather than pig intestine.

    and have you gone to the bridge where they play music and have a night water/light show (technically water spouting out from the side of the bridge in sync with music played, with technicolor lighting) at 한강? If i’m not wrong its at the bridge at the 한강시민공원 on 잠실 side, near 롯데 월.

  5. Kolee permalink
    July 2, 2010 3:26 pm

    Where is the wet market???

  6. Megumi permalink
    July 4, 2010 2:53 am

    Hi, I just loved your photos! Can I ask what kind of white balance (don’t even know if that’s the right term) did you use for them? I recently started photography and would like to try ones like yours up there.
    Also I’m visiting Seoul in August so can’t really wait!!

    • July 4, 2010 7:34 am

      Aww thank you 🙂 That’s very nice to hear! I don’t really quite know how to answer your question because I just started around 6 months ago and do everything by pure gut feeling of what would look aesthetically pleasing to me. I’m excited you’ll be coming to Seoul, it’s absolutely beautiful! 🙂

      • Megumi permalink
        July 6, 2010 10:03 pm

        Thanks for the reply! So ok that means I can just go with whatever my heart feels like eh, think I can do that! I’m all excited to experience the food, the people, the energy of the city. Gamsa Hamnida! 🙂

  7. James Wilson permalink
    September 10, 2010 10:55 am

    I have been working in Seoul since the 6th of June and have yet to find a good pen store. I have Sailor Pens that really need ink and I am looking for the new Visconti Homo Sapiens pen. I don’t know how to read Hangul so I need to get really good directions. I usually get a taxi to the area then using some land marks find my way to the shoppe. Any help would be awesome!

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