I took the train to Dongdaemun the other day on a mission: to finally, hopefully, find a laptop backpack I liked. See, Dongdaemun is yet another popular shopping area here in Seoul. In addition to the Doota mall, the Migliore and Hello apM buildings, and the Lotte Fitin mall, it’s also home to the Pyeonghwa Market — one of the oldest wholesale markets in the country — and the Gwangjang Market, another longstanding market known for its silks and traditional Korean clothing.
Dongdaemun is situated just south of the Cheonggyecheon Stream (remember the Lantern Festival? this stream runs for several miles). When you exit the subway station, you surface right at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park and are immediately drawn to the eye-capturing structure that marks this arts and culture facility, designed by a British architect and apparently just completed in 2013. A must-see if you’re ever in Seoul. I unfortunately didn’t go inside the complex. I ran out of time! Too busy shopping for my backpack….
Which brings me to the shopping experience. The Doota and Lotte Fitin mall buildings are each eight floors or so of high-end shopping (surprise, surprise!). Unlike the other malls I’ve visited in Seoul so far, however, these are clearly tailored for fashionistas. The clothing designs range from classic, to funky, to flat-out stunning looks you might see on the runway. That goes for the shoes, sunglasses, handbags (oh my goodness, beautiful bags) and other accessories they sell as well. Of course, good taste is usually not cheap, so…. I’ll just let you imagine what the price tags were like.
I was disappointed to find that the Migliore and Hello apM buildings were full of market-style shopping stalls, simply packed into high-rise buildings. I still explored every floor, but wasn’t exactly inclined to peek around too much. You tend to get hounded by the sellers, who are desperate and quick to offer you “discounts,” and, once again, the product quality is not the best. I keep thinking, maybe it’s just like shopping for cheap stuff at Ross or TJ Maxx … but I honestly get the feeling even those stores carry better quality merchandise. I could be wrong.
I did manage to buy a backpack (yay) at Doota mall, but only after weighing the pros and cons and comparing with another backpack I saw at Hello apM for quite cheaper. I kept telling the sellers offering me discounts that “quality” is more important to me than “price.” By the way, did I mention I got asked my age, twice?? Promptly after being asked where I’m from. A bit surprising, but also amusing. We’re quickly learning the significance of a person’s age in this country, so it makes sense.
I’m happy with the backpack. It’s a Japanese design “but made in Korea” as they’re quick to tell you. Hey I’m finally starting to blend in, a little. I was originally going to buy an Ogio backpack or something like that before we left the states, but Will suggested I should wait until we got here to see what people here used. GOOD idea. Don’t want to stand out any more than we already do, hehe.
Ok so Dongdaemun — if you’re into unique fashions, shop here. They also had street food vendors lining the sidewalks, which I didn’t have much time to check out. But I’ve already told Will I’d like to go back with him to explore some more.
In other news, we cooked our first dinner at home the other night in our cozy kitchen. Rice, breaded chicken and veggies. Not bad! As Will said, it was nice to have a somewhat normal evening. And totally random, but we ordered a Pizza Hut pizza yesterday, size Medium, which apparently feeds 2-3 people…and take a look below. Hilarious! Was like a snack.