This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.
After our morning visit to Noryangjin Fish Market, we went back to our hotel awhile. then just after lunch time, we decided to make visit somewhere near, so we went for Namdaemun Market. Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional markets in Seoul, and is pretty old, open since 1964. Actually, our hotel was very close to the market and is walking distance. The actual Namdaemun Gate is just outside our hotel. in the old days there were four gates in Seoul, located at the cardinal points of the compass, naturally if you understand Chinese, Namdaemun is the Southern Gate.
When we got to the market it was drizzling slightly and quite early in the afternoon, so there weren’t many shoppers there. If you visit it at night, the place is quite packed with food stalls open along the walkways making it very congested.
Namdaemun Market is primarily a clothes market, but you can find other stuff like food, souvenirs, kitchenware, bags, shoes, etc. But primarily this is the place to shop for clothes if you are a woman above 40. Contrasting to this place is the Ewha Women’s University / Hongdae which is targeted to the younger, 20 to 30 year old women shoppers (more on that on a later post).
As the drizzle started to get a little heavier, we decided to rest in a roadside coffeeshop for some latte and hot chocolate. After warming down, we went into one of the malls surrounding the market. Inside, the were floors and floors of shops selling – you guessed it, women’s fashion. But strangely, though, this particular mall closes at 5pm sharp.
We bought some souvenirs in the market for our friends, and got some snacks from the stalls. After the market we decided to take a bus to Gwangjang market, with some help from a local to locate the right bus stop.
Gwangjang Market is a very vibrant food market, so much so we ended up visiting it twice during our stay in Seoul. But for this first visit, we didn’t really know what to expect. The outer fringes of the market were mainly stalls selling dried / salted seafood, fresh meat, etc. But once you reach the centre of the market then you can see that it is a really happening place. the centre area is packed with stalls selling local delicacies like different types of haemul pajeon (seafood pancake made of mung beans), tteokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce), seafood, dumplings, etc. Each stall has wooden benches in front of them, but seats are quite tough to find especially near the popular stalls.
We really wanted to try the haemul pajeon (we love to eat in the local Korean BBQ restaurants in Malaysia) so squeezed our way around the market until we met this elderly ahjumma who kept waving to us and gesturing to us to sit down at her stall. Not really knowing what to do, we just sat down. Some of the other stalls and restaurants had queues of customers waiting for tables. There was another group of elderly men dressed in work clothes eating haemul pajeon and drinking soju at this stall, so I guess it can’t be THAT bad, right?
How it works here is that you choose what you want to eat, or in our case when we can’t speak Korean and don’t know what the heck we are ordering, the ahjumma will choose for you. She will then do a quick fry of the stuff (to make it hot and crispy again) and cut it up and serve it on a tin foil plate for you. There was a different variety of pajeon and some sausages thrown in, and they all tasted really good (we skipped the deep fried whole fish).
Dinner came up to be very cheap, I think it was around KRW 5,000. We weren’t full yet, so we bought a different kind of haemul pajeon from this very popular stall right in the centre of the market. The girls running the stall could speak Mandarin.
We bought the pajeon to go so we didn’t have to wait for a seat. we also saw this stall selling gimbap (Korean sushi rolls) that was featured in a few TV shows including Running Man.
So we bought some gimbap for supper. SOMEONE also suggested we should try Korean soju, so we bought a bottle from a store in the market, this was the first time I got coins in change as the price did not come to an even KRW100.
We took a bus back to the hotel, and our supper of gimbap, haemul pajeon and soju at the hotel cafÃ©. The soju was pretty strong stuff, we gave our unfinished bottle to the hotel guys.
So our very long Day Two in Seoul came to an end. Next up – Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower.