24 November 2016

Seoul November 2016 - Day 3 Namdaemun Market, Ewha Womans University, Hongdae Free Market, Hongik University Street

Continued from
Day 1 Nine Tree Hotel Myeongdong, Gwangjang/Bangsan/Chungbu Markets, N Seoul Tower
Day 2 Hanbok, Gyeongbokgung, Tosokchon, Samcheongdong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Myeong-dong

Day 3 - Namdaemun (Lunch) > Ewha Women's University > Hongdae Free Market / Hongik University Street (dinner) > Lotte Mart

Another full day of activities, and hence we made it to Namdaemun Market in the morning.

Namdaemun Market (남대문시장)

Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea and upon reaching the area and getting an area map (from the travel guides stationed around the street), I realised the whole place is huge indeed! Besides the retailers lined along the streets, there are several wholesale buildings each around four to five stories.

The retail streets are divided into several categories like Children's Clothes Street, Watch/Jewelry Street, Fashion Street, Military Uniform Street, Bedding Street, Mountain Climbing Equipment Street, Camera Street, Stationery/Toy Street, Food Material Street. Food streets include Chopped Noodles Street and Fish/Stew Street.

Even at 9am, the streets were already busting with tourists and locals. As we only had limited, couldn't cover all the areas.

Ventured into one of the wholesale buildings and if one doesn't have an objective in mind and just browsing only, you could totally get overwhelming by the sheer vastness and variety of goods sold here.

I believe I could get lost in all the kitchen and serve ware here. Felt so tempted to buy stuff but first of all, limited luggage space, secondly it's quite time consuming to ask for prices from store to store for comparison. Was interested in some cutlery and tried asking a few shops and prices could differ by a fair bit, probably I was asking for per piece price, if purchase in bulk prices could easily be slashed by half or more. In the end I just gave up.

Other levels in the building such as flower/garderning, pottery.

Handicraft, ornaments, folkcraft.

Accessory, jewelry making. Each floor is huge and consists of several aisles and alley. Can totally get lost inside. Think MBK in Bangkok, but several times bigger and wider variety of goods.

This is definitely the place to go for sourcing goods, if you are conducting a business!

Since I was looking only for a few pieces of kitchenware, decided to just buy from one of the retailers along the streets. Prices are a couple of dollars higher than that quoted in the wholesale building (I mean per piece price, if bulk purchase definitely much cheaper).

Several makeshift stalls selling very affordable clothes here. But I'm sure the prices would be even cheaper inside the clothing wholesale centre (if buying in bulk).

There's a whole street of stationery/toys/packaging/partyware shops as well, similar to what I saw at Bangsan Wholesale Market on the first day. If there's no time to venture there, Namdaemun Market is definitely a good place to hunt for packaging stuff as well.

And now we come to food! Street food stalls here are more spread out than those found in Myeongdong.

Hotteok calling out to me! What better snack to eat during cold weather than a hot pancake stuffed with brown sugary syrup and chopped nuts? Hotteok is one of my favourite Korean Street Snack.

Apparently there's another staff at another entrance to the Market which is very famous for Hotteok. I only found it when leaving the market. The queue was super long though, which means it must be really yummy. Well, didn't matter, any hotteok was good for me!

Now for proper meal. We went into one of the food alley and most of the eateries have displays like this to attract customers. And most of the ahjummas here speak some mandarin, kept beckoning us into their shops.

We selected a shop randomly. HB ordered a pan-fried fish (cannot remember what fish is that already) and udon, whereas I ordered a beef rib and radish soup. HB's udon never arrived, but we were actually quite full after finishing these. Food quality was so-so only though.

And this is Sungnyemun Gate (숭례문), also known as Namdaemun Gate, currently Korea’s National Treasure No. 1.

After Namdaemun Market, we made our way to Ewha Womans University (이화여자대학교). Don't ask me why I went there :p Well, it seemed to be a popular tourist destination, judging by the number of blogs I read which recommended it as the campus is very lovely. The surrounding area is also one of the most popular shopping districts in Seoul with many fashion, accessory, shoes, beauty salons and cafes.

Main street leading to the University. I will certainly look forward to going to school if the street leading to my school looked like this.

Already a common sight in Seoul, several street food stalls lined the streets leading to the University.

And here, Ewha Womans University.

And this is the supposedly most iconic complex of the University? Called the Ewha Campus Complex, it's Korea's largest underground campus, which houses library, bookstore, gym, movie theater, cafes, lecture rooms and an eco-park. Wow!

We were here on a Saturday and the whole place was crowded! But I guess mostly tourists like us, who were curious about the place. I wonder how do the students here feel? Proud that their campus became an attraction or disturbed by over-enthusiastic tourists taking countless photos all over the campus and being rowdy and noisy?

Personally I was more attracted to the flora and fauna and the older colonial buildings.

Autumn foliage and cool weather made the campus look so scenic and romantic.

Now I wish to study here! I heard they run short-term Korean language courses =D Maybe one day, I will.

Next stop,  Hongdae Free Market 홍대 프리마켓 (www.freemarket.or.kr), a weekend art and creative market selling handmade items. The market only operates on Saturdays from March to November, at a park within the Hongdae (Hongik University Street) (홍대).

Hongik University Street is even bigger than Ewha University Street with many more shops, and therefore much more crowded. Reminds me of Shibuya and Harajuku in Tokyo.

Anyways, the free market area is about 10 mins' walk from the subway.

Most of the stalls sell handmade jewelry, ornaments and stationery.

There are also ten stalls or so, drawing caricature / painting portrait for a fee. We eyed one of the stalls doing water-colour portrait but the queue was so long we gave up waiting.

There were also performances at a corner of the market.

Overall, a lovely creative market with nice ambience.

We walked around Hongik University Street for a while and came across a few UFO catcha shops and there were pokemons plush :) The HB did manage to catch one Squirtle for 2000 won at another shop. The retail price was 4000 won, lucky!

Chanced upon this fried chicken shop and feeling a little peckish, decided to feast on fried chicken for dinner.

Actually after eating here, I recalled there's a Kyochon Fried Chicken shop in Hongdae area and I had wanted to eat Kyochon's fried chicken for this trip! My goldfish memory!!!!! Boohoooooooo....

Shocked that the portion was so big, we didn't realise the food portion here was exactly what that was shown at the entrance.

Now, no way the two of us could finish all these, it was more for 3-4 people? Anyways, the fried chicken was yummy, super crispy on the outside and juicy inside. We selected garlic soy flavour and the sauce coated on the chicken was finger licking good. But then, still cannot finish lah.

After the super heavy meal, we strolled around the area a bit and this caught my attention.

Haha. I'm always attracted to novelty stuff. It's a drink served in a "light-bulb" shaped plastic bottle. You can order beer, liquor or fruit juices. I opted for jeju orange juice :p Yes I brought the bottle home. It's cute!

After walking around for a while more, we felt tired and wanted to head back to the hotel. Took a cab and when we reached the Seoul Station area, the cab driver told us that some roads were blocked due to ongoing protest and the jam would take us much longer to get to Myeongdong, whereas taking the subway would be faster. 

Lotte Mart - Seoul Station Branch (롯데마트-서울역점)

So we alighted. I had planned to visit Lotte Market on Monday night, but since we were here, might as well shop here. Spent a couple of hours shopping for snacks and grocery at the huge Lotte Mart which was packed with tourists, before finally heading back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for day 4, where we dined at one of Korea Tourism Board's certified Royal Cuisine Restaurant, visited Insadong and Cheongyecheon Stream for Seoul's Lantern Festival.

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