A Day of Firsts

I guess every day here is bound to be a day of firsts.

Yesterday I revisited Namdaemun Market, but this time for an in-depth look. Not necessarily to buy anything, just to see what they had. I walked around for a couple hours, feeling at times like I was going in circles — it’s like a maze in there! You can either explore the shopping stalls outside, or go inside and explore multiple levels of stalls, or go underground and get lost in several more levels of shopping. It feels like it goes on forever. Truly amazing! More than 10,000 shops, most items selling for really cheap. Some of what I saw: lots of clothes, including coats, PJs, military clothing, socks, ladies’ undies/bras, fashionable scarves; shoes galore; miscellaneous souvenir-type items; food; electronic accessories; luggage/purses/backpacks; jewelry and accessories.

Personally, I wouldn’t really spend too much of my money there. Yes, things are cheap, but that’s just it, they’re cheap. As in cheaply made. At least that’s my impression. Maybe not everything, but a lot of it. I’ve been on the hunt for a nice backpack, and upon close inspection of some of the backpacks there, I saw they had broken zippers.

They have a huge jewelry area (where workers were assembling jewelry — real? fake? who knows), a huge fashion accessories area, and a big section for children’s clothing (dubbed “mama children’s wear”), among others. I discovered the jewelry area while looking for a bathroom, actually. Saw a sign that said “toilet” and followed the arrows. Through the jewels and into a small, sketchy looking bathroom. I’d been told about these bathrooms — where you have to grab your tissue before going in and you have a choice of using  a “foreigners” type toilet or the other kind (don’t ask, I didn’t open the stall doors to look!). Regardless. I grabbed my tissue, went in, and it was totally fine. Clean and not sketchy after all.

My favorite part of Namdaemun Market, of course, were the street food vendors. Read: delicious fried food. I finally got to try hotteok, a brown-sugar-filled Korean pancake. So good! They fill them with the sugar mix, then fry them and flatten them using a special tool. Other street foods I saw included Korean hot dogs, skewered potato chips and gunbam (roasted chestnuts).

I don’t have time to show you pics from our stroll last night along the Cheonggyecheon Stream, where the annual Seoul Lantern Festival was taking place. It was a sight to behold! Alas, last but not least, I leave you with a different kind of special treat I saw as I walked past a ladies’ wear shop at Namdaemun Market.

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