Namdaemun Market

Thursday, 14 July 2016

One of the largest traditional markets in Korea, Namdaemun Market opened in 1964 and boasts an extremely large variety of products being sold here. All the goods here are mostly made directly by the storeowners and sold at affordable prices. On top of having wholesale markets, this place has a stable balance of Korean heritage and the modernized skyscrapers and urban lifestyles. This market sells a variety of different clothes, mostly worn by Koreans, kitchenware, toys, mountain gear, fishing equipment, accessories, imported goods, and Korean ginseng!

Namdaemun Market has been renovated here and there throughout the years to make it more accessible to foreigners and locals alike. Signs have been put up so that people can navigate the place better and tourism guides are situated in the important spots to help out wandering tourists trying to find certain spots to get to.

Right off the bat you see many different kinds of goods being sold by many different vendors ranging from children's clothes to ladies' clothes. There are also many different types of imported goods sold in the underground market as well. Namdaemun Market also has indoor complexes which sell mostly wholesale goods which are cheap if you're there to buy in bulk. If you're looking to buy a Korean traditional costume (Hanbok) you can find it here at a cheaper price. 

Right next to Gate 2 is this spot which sells the Korean Vegetable Pancake called a Hoddeok (야채호떡) pronounced Yachae Hoddeok. This only costs 1000won and is usually sold out by 5pm. There are many other vendors that are selling the same dish but this one is hands down the best. The flour is made perfectly and is crispy on the outside while having a savory and soft core of vegetables. I have tried many near this very shop due to the queue, but they do not compare at all. Do yourself a favor and just queue up because it's simply amazing. 

On top of the delicious street food along the way, there's a famous bun shop that sells great meat buns (similar to our pau in Singapore) that have been showcased on Korean TV many many times. As you take a walk through the winding lanes and confusing pathways, you'll come across many different quaint looking cafes that you can just grab a coffee to cool yourself down after a long time of walking. 

As you make your way through the many shops, you'll see the weirdest array of products being sold together in the same place. Kitchenware is sold everywhere on the streets, including utensils. There are also a huge range of opticians around the area which has a wide selection of different eyewear which they say are sold at reasonable prices. However, I feel with the influx of foreigners from everywhere, it's best to get them elsewhere unless you see something that you really like. 

They also sell a lot of mountain, ski and fishing gear to fulfill the hobbies of Koreans. This is almost like a one-stop shop that the older generations of Koreans have been patronizing for many decades. Another thing that is sold widely are famous Korean seaweed and Korean ginseng. These are healthy nutritional foods that are made as a health boost to keep the body in tip top condition. It's a great gift for people in the Southeast Asian region if you're ever in a dilemma of what to buy.

I'll let my photos do the talking from here on...

The entire place is very bright and colorful and you just see people going through their daily businesses, trying to make sales and talking about the weather. There're many different places selling the same things and they are always ready to lower the price just to make a sale. It's funny how as the world is progressing, you can just catch a glimpse of how Korea has managed to maintain a little bit of its heritage through its people.

If you're going around Korea and wondering how all the elderly in Korea look alike, this is probably where they all shop because all the clothing looks so similar. The material that they use are really intriguing because there are some that are meant for Summer, and some for Winter, which provide for the different necessities during the prospective seasons. Many moments made me smile as I walked past and overheard their conversations. The funniest part is that they think that I don't understand Korean and sometimes they say some things about me like "Oh look a bald guy taking photos", or "Look a bald foreigner".

I was really looking forward to the pancake that I talked about at the beginning of the post but I only wanted to eat it after I took all the photos I wanted because it gets pretty messy. But alas, when I arrived it had finished. Spent the rest of the time taking more photos before calling it a day when it got darker. 

Another thing to note is that Namdaemun Market has a "Camera Street". Much like how people go to a street in Hong Kong to buy camera related products due to it being the cheapest in the entire Asian region, this is also the best place to buy photography products (Yes, do NOT go to Yongsan). It's almost the same concept as Sim Lim Square in Singapore where it used to be the best place for electronics but now is an excellent place for cheating foreigners into paying more than what its worth. 

Anyway, this is a place where it's easy to compare prices, buy quality products and they are nice enough to help you in anyway possible. I purchased my 6D and Sigma 35mm here and there were no problems whatsoever. It's cheaper than many places and they also seem a lot more honest than the ones at Yongsan. You will need to be paying cash for cheaper prices so be sure to carry around a substantial amount should you be looking to purchase something here.

Located really near Seoul Station, Namdaemun Market is pretty large and takes some time to go through. If you'd like to head there to have a look at what you might find, you can head there during weekdays or even Saturday. Many shops are closed on Sunday so be sure to take note. The market is opened during the day, and many of the shops on the street start to close around 6-ish. The indoor shopping complexes for wholesale goods, however, open from 11pm to 3am again. 

Take the train on Line 4 and get off at Heehyeon Station (희현역) and get out at Exit 5. Take a right turn and walk straight till you see many many people with many different shops. The entire atmosphere is different and you'll definitely not miss it. Happy shopping! 

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