Sunday, November 02, 2014

Namdaemun Market (남대문시장) - Korea Largest Traditional Market! @ Seoul [Line 4 - Hoehyeon Station]

Namdaemun Market, just a stone's throw away from Hotel Manu, was the first 'official' attraction we checked out after a restful sleep! We actually took the long way via Sungnyemun Gate without realising how close it was to our hotel! 

Established since 1414 (you read it right; a history of six hundred years), this market was said to have close to 1,700 shops, serving on average of 400,000 customers a day! Funny i didn't really quite experience the feel of that.

There were a number of designated zones just like Chatuchak Weekend Market but in the case of Namdaemun, it was categorised simply into streets and alleys (map would be included at the end of this post). In the above photograph, we were at the start of the Stationery & Toy Street where an iconic clock tower marked the entrance to the market.

Socks! Whenever i see this, the first person that came to mind was Alex. That bloody ass bought 30 pairs of socks in Taiwan just because it was less than fifty cents a pair! 

Putting the portrait of someone with historical significance on a boxer is so wrong! If it is found in Thailand with a picture of the highly revered Thai King, i can guarantee the seller would be slapped with a charge of Lèse Majesté,

It was mentioned in the official website that the stores open at 10.30 pm and come alive only at around 2.00 am! Sure boh?! Many shops appeared to have opened for business at 10.30 am when we were there and frankly, my age is no longer appropriate for such late night shopping! 

In preparation of Halloween then. For those preparing for Christmas, the pink, angelic wings were already out for sale as well.

Looks like a cross between pyjamas and winter wear - you can get it from about ₩10,000 (around S$12); not that expensive although the weather in Singapore hardly requires us to wear it. 

Fresh figs for sale!!! Fruits in general were not cheap and to quote an example, a typical bunch of bananas cost about ₩3,000 (S$3.50)! Louise was craving for bananas throughout the trip and we compared prices everything we saw anyone selling them.

Food Alley - as the name suggests, the alley was flanked by dining establishments and even though we have not had any breakfast then, the lack of customers in the shops discouraged us from venturing further.

Very adorable kids' wear! As you can see, we came at the wrong season; end of autumn when the citizens are preparing for the cold and harsh winter. 

We could of course purchase the beautiful hanbok for Jerald and Jovyn; decided not to as they would not likely have many chances to wear them and we all know how fast kids grow. 

Ladies can target the many stalls selling bras and panties; note that the colours were quite limited. Don't ask me about the pricing as i seriously didn't ask. 

I was more interested in the bags! Due to a bad experience in Kuala Lumpur, i would however only buy bags from department stores or shops that appeared more legitimate. No point in haggling for an item that would eventually be ripped apart after a week. 

Clothing suitable for my mom.

Coming to the end of the Stationery & Toy Street; despite the label, it wasn't entirely decked out for the sale of stationery and toys. You may judge from the pictures i have uploaded so far in this post.

Do keep in mind that there were buildings with additional levels or even basements where you can unleash your shopping devil for further indulgence. I didn't want to do that as the interior would have heating and it was rather uncomfortable to step in with a coat! 

This scene can be seen in Chong Pang market (Singapore), albeit on a smaller scale, where ahjummas would lay out mats and place fresh fruits / vegetables for sale. 

My tummy was still lacking breakfast and this immediately caught my attention; what's better than a pan fried hot bun to warm the stomach on a cool day?! 

Kimchi bun at ₩1,000; was complaining to my friends that i could hardly find economical street food in Korea. I was wrong on that count as this was about S$1.20. Tasted quite alright but could have been better if served hot. 

Well, in case you are interested in the shop that sold the kimchi bun i had. 

Walking along the Mountain Climbing Equipment Street, this would be the place to check out if you need to hike at Hallasan or any other mountain in Korea during your trip. 

Hungry again and this time, i am getting the street food that the running man cast always seemed to enjoy in the shows; Odeng (오뎅 – fish cakes)! Fishcake wasn't any much different from what we can get in Singapore; key ingredient here was the light broth which is definitely a must order in cold weather! 

Chanced upon the wet market section! 

The sisters were contemplating about the nuts; after some calculation, the additional weight plus minimal price differential didn't quite justify the hassle of bringing them back to Singapore. 

Fancy a fish to bring back to Singapore? Not sure if that can be done although i understand there is a noryangjin fish market in Seoul which allows you to choose the seafood (fresh and alive) and then cook them on the second level. I have only heard since i didn't have any time to pay it a visit. 

Mom might have considered the dry fish if she was with us. I still vividly remember the time she insisted on bringing back a kilo worth of dried fish maw from Bangkok.

Fast forward to four days later and we were once again back in Namdaemun! This time, we reached at around 4.30 pm and the entry point was the end of the Stationery & Toy Street that i touched on a few paragraphs above.

Think this was an alley for accessories; my sisters would usually swarm to such stalls and didn't do it this time as they are likely to swarm the stalls at Zhuhai (China) this December. Put it this way, the ability to bargain in the language you are proficient in would be so much easier and less frustrating! 

Wigs, anyone? The first two thoughts that came to mind when i saw these for sale were the images of Lee Kwang Soo and Kim Jong Kook when they masqueraded as the fairer sex in Running Man!

Unlike Singapore, you can change your money at a makeshift stall like the above. I didn't attempt to change any money in Korea so i can't comment further on the procedures.

I think this was the Children's Clothes Street.

How did he even manage to stack up so high?! I am sad to say that this scene was very common during my trip and i am often worried for the safety of the motorist.

Nice booties for sale! Given our shy nature, we seldom asked for pricing in Korea unless we have a serious need to get the item. Okay lah, truth is we don't know and could not converse well in Korean. 

Caps / hats from about ₩10,000 to ₩13,000. Would you believe me if i tell you i didn't notice the price until now? Hahaha, i was too busy taking photographs! 

We have something like this in Singapore and it is affectionately known as Army Market by men who have gone through national service! For those who are unaware, Korea also practices conscription like us.

Atmosphere in the afternoon was way better than that morning on our first day! The Main Street had a lot of visitors even though it still wasn't as crowded as the famous night markets in Taiwan

Taking a random shot of my sisters.

Another shop with many nice winter wear. I personally hate to buy winter wear; for one, i don't need them in Singapore and secondly, they take up a lot of space in my luggage! 

Briefs - i would have bought a few if not for the thick strap with the wordings "Naikente"! What the heck is naikente?!?!?!

Pink frocks for Jovyn! Again, the mummy wasn't keen and i could not blame her. Jovyn isn't a demure kid and such a good piece of clothing would likely end in tatters after a day. 

Trolleys being rolled out to attract the attention of the pedestrians! See the wires on the floor; they are tripping hazards! By the way, can anyone explain those wordings on the floor? 

Whenever friends return from Korea, there would be a few things they would buy back to Singapore as souvenirs for friends / colleagues / family; one of which is Korean seaweed. 

Honestly, i don't know why as Korean seaweed wasn't exceptionally delicious. I would prefer the fried seaweed from Thailand (Tao Kae Noi) anytime!

Taking a breather at Cafe Sori where we have a good view of the streets on ground level. For more details, please click here

I regret not doing one thing in Korea; buying prescription glasses! I read somewhere that glasses in Namdaemun are around 30% cheaper than other places in Korea given the stiff competition! :( 

This reminded me of Taiwan with their wide range of braised pork products! There was even a pig's head published on my sister's facebook photo album on this Korea trip.

More street food - another regret; i didn't have had as much food as i wanted to! Didn't try that larvae stuff, didn't even attempt swallowing octopus with their chopped up tentacles still moving! 

Again, mom's kind of stuff. 

Before i end this entry, let me share with you a snack that you die die must try in Korea during winter/ in cold weather. I noticed the above stall seemed quite popular in my first visit and decided to try the pancake the second time i was there.

Damn, i forgot the price! Oh well, it would not be more than 2,000 Korean Won and if i guess it correctly from the location on the map, i think the stall is Dalin Pancake at the junction of Stationery & Toy Street and Food Alley (check out the map at the end of this post)! 

Given to me in a cup, this griddle fried pancake is actually known as Hotteok (호떡) and said to be usually eaten during winter. Note: it has super high sugar content!

It was indeed heavenly; in addition to having a nice crisp similar to my mom's deep fried nian gao, the deliciously sweet filling came with bits of nuts that totally enhanced the texture! Maybe someone should consider importing this to Singapore! 


In summary, i thought Namdaemun market is like a humongous Chong Pang market with products that could attract local aunties and uncles. Is it a must visit? Why not, especially if you are going to be shopping next door at Myeongdong.

Exit from Line 4 - Hoehyeon Station.


As above. 
Right click and save for a higher resolution. 

For the summary of my inaugural South Korea trip 
(Seoul and Jeju Island), click HERE.

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