The Seoul of the "local" people
Seoul Travel Blog› entry 5 of 6 › view all entries
I was on my own for the day as Mark was tied up with some people he had to meet. I felt comfortable enough in the city to venture out on my own to visit another recommended market area and hopefully pick up some silk material for a friend of mine in Arizona.
I planned to see the Dongdaemun Market and whatever else came my way as I wandered through the city. The front desk agent advised me against walking there, saying that for locals it was easy to find......but for tourists....well........ better catch a cab.
I'm a good walker and am used to laying down miles whenever we travel but I was glad for the taxi ride if only for the chance to people watch once more as we twisted and turned our way through the narrow streets.
I walked first one direction, then another, down into subways, around block after block of Western looking shopping malls and along sidewalks covered in unopened vendor's stalls, all in search of the ellusive Dongdaemun market.
I limped back to the original drop off point having made no progress in the hour I had already wasted. I took a different tack and headed across the bridge over the Cheonggye Stream and finally started to have some success. I wandered into the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex, which was a multi-story building absolutely filled to the gills with fabrics, laces, zippers, hooks and eyes, buttons, trims, bobbins of thread and everything that could have anything to do with the sewing and fashion industry.
I finally gasped for fresh air as I rushed out onto the street, unsuccessful in my quest for silk. I guess it was sensory overload or I just hadn't found the floor which housed my fabric of choice. In any case, I continued my walk, not even consulting my map. I had given myself up to the obvious conclusion of wandering aimlessly through the streets until I gave in and hailed a cab.
I stayed parallel with the Cheonggye Stream as I walked the back alleys of several markets which seemed to have no name. It was worse that any scene portrayed in movies, of the back streets of London in the Charles Dickens era.
My luck soon changed as I walked through the gardening district. I made a left turn, into a brightly lit, though covered market area called, KwangJang Market. Unlike the Nandaemun Market which is tourist oriented with trinkets and cheap plastic sunglasses, this market was the Mecca of the working class. The "food court" in the center of the market consisted of dozens of grills, spits and fry tanks, tended by middle aged women who chopped, whacked, kneeded, rolled and stirred whatever their speciality may have been.
I was finally successful in my quest for silk when I ran upon the fabric area of the market. It was not so oppressive here and the vendors were more eager to serve, even attempting a bit of English in the process. I found a friendly little booth, stacked with silk in all colors imaginable. I was able to communicate enough of what I wanted through words and sign language to come away with three lovely selections of silk. I was quite proud of myself as I strolled away and felt quite at ease admiring the brightly colored, traditional Korean costumes that were displayed along this section of the market.
I was back onto the street and once more came upon another section of the Cheonggye Stream. Stopping to rest, I looked over the railing to see a delightful display of hundreds of umbrellas, open and hanging on wires running from one side of the stream to the other. The rainbow colors shimmered as the umbrellas wavered back and forth in the breeze. A Korean businessman walking past saw my reaction to the display and commented, "Beautiful", in English as he nodded his head toward the sight. "Yes, beautiful", I replied, to the wind.
As I was limping along rather slowly by now, I decided to catch a cab over to the Insadong area once more to hopefully pick up a few more items before my shopping day was complete.
Several purchases later, after being charged twice the amount I found on the same items in other stores, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.