Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Maze-like Markets of Dongdaemun: Part 1

Last weekend, some friends and I spent a day exploring Seoul's largest shopping area: Dongdaemun Market. This vast commercial district is dominated by endless flea markets, shopping malls and fashion boutiques, many of which are open day and night. Tourists and locals flock here every day to find good deals on a variety of different products, ranging from clothes to jewellery to electrical products.

Before heading to Dongdaemun, Angela and I walked around my local area, where we came across this whacky character standing outside an LG store.
He gave Angela a free dog-shaped balloon.

Walking towards Gasan Digital station with a dog in my rucksack.
The river separating Gwangmyeong from Seoul was lined with cherry blossom trees, a symbol of the Korean spring.

After a train ride into the city we arrived at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, which is mostly still under construction.

Part of Dongdaemun Plaza.
Soon we found our first open-air market place, right by Dongdaemun Station.
The district is named after this building, Dongdaemun (also known as Heunginjimun, meaning "Gate of Rising Benevolence"). It is one of the eight traditional gates of Seoul, dating from the Joseon era, when walls surrounded the entire city.
Dongdaemun from the front. 
This cool little captain was riding his bike through the market place. 
We soon explored one of the district's many indoor markets.
Shoe-shopping is tricky business.
Then we followed a roadside market that ran along the Cheonggyecheon stream.
The road was full of pet shops and animal markets.
A strange-looking fish we saw in a small aquarium shop. A google-search suggests it's a type of "Flower-Horn."
Back outside we saw more animals cooped up in cramped, dirty conditions, a fairly typical sight in Korea.

After the pet market we took a turn onto an area of bustling flea markets, where people sold their wares straight from the sidewalk. 
A bass in a buggy.

These men were watching a vendor build a violin.
Angela made a new friend hiding behind the market stalls.

They say Dongdaemun's markets sell practically any product you'd want to find. With hundreds of shops and stalls as dense and convoluted as this one, I can believe it.
Korean VHS tapes.
Shopping for wristwatches the Korean way.
This street vendor was preparing and selling beondegi, a popular Korean snack consisting of boiled silkworm pupae.
I decided it was about time I tried some. The woman gave me a whole cup but I could only eat three of the little things before I had to stop. They tasted pretty much exactly how you'd expect silkworm pupae to taste: like bitter, half-digested cardboard pellets. I think I'll stick with Pringles.

Click here to continue the adventure in Part 2!

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