Korea Trip 2010, Part 11: Namdaemun Marketplace, Part 2

4.27.2011

Yes, another travel post finishedddd!  Anyway, I went to Namdaemun 3-4 times while I was Seoul because I liked it so much.  They had a HUGE jewelry/beads floor - but it was open only to wholesalers :( so I didn't get to buy anything.  You can watch people handmaking fabric flowers, feathered hairbands, etc - it's amazing to see the work that goes behind making a single hairband~ I didn't take enough pictures of this place because I was too busy poking my head into the little booths, but hopefully this post will give you a little taste of what it is like :}

This is a continuation to Namdaemun Marketplace, Part 1 :)
To start from the beginning go to Part 1: Flying to Tokyo

Anyway! To continue from Part 1: One my aunts told us not to exchange our money at the airport because it was a rip-off.  We did exchange about $200 at the airport for bus fares and such, but the rest of the cash we exchanged here:


From old ladies like this ^_^

It looked mad sketchy, but my aunt said that they give the best exchange rates.  These old ladies keep a couple thousand dollars worth of money in various currencies in a pouch around their waist; that and a little box set up with a calculator and rubberbands - that's all they need :}  These ladies have a little sign saying they exchange yen, yuan, won, and usd, but the exact exchange rate is somewhat informal because YES, you can bargain exchange rates.  It's best to go with an older fluent-speaking Korean man or woman to bargain for you because you'll get the best exchange rate.  However, don't expect to bargain too much either way, these ladies track the daily exchange rate and you won't be able to deviate much from that - it wouldn't be fair to them, honestly.  Either way, you'll probably get a better rate than what you will at the airport.  A lot of people both Koreans (about to visit the States I guess) and foreigners were exchanging money, so obviously it's quite legit.


At first I wondered why the exchange-ladies didn't get robbed but my aunt told me it's because these old ladies are in the same place everyday aka have their territory, so the people/shopkeepers around them know to "protect" them.   Plus most of these exchange-ladies are 50+ so you'd look like a right douche bag trying to rip off the bag they have strapped around their body.  Not to mention these streets are very busy, no way you'd get far without someone tackling you.

Anyway, less chat more pics ^_^!

Sign says: Dak Gom Tang aka Chicken Beef Soup
Gomtang (beef brisket & tripe soup) is a traditional soup that is enjoyed by many Koreans. In translation, gomtangbear soup but in this case gom refers to the extensive boiling which depicts the hearty flavors and nutrients that this dish provides. It is commonly said that consuming this soup will provide excellent strength much like a bear. - From Trifood
For lunch we ate at a real hole-in-the-wall at Namedaemun.  Gom-tang soup is one of my favorite Korean dishes...I have a weakness for beef broth soups and gom-tang is a rare treat for me because it's rather hard to make since it requires a lot of boiling.  But made properly, this beef soup is actually quite healthy since you are supposed to skim off most of the fat :) DAK gom tang is gomtang/beef soup with pieces of chicken in it.  Dak = chicken :)

Guy in blue shirt: The quintessential Korean "ahjusshi" aka older man.
Good lord, could he fit the ahjusshi stereotype any better -_-;;? Wonbin he is not.

How do you know this place has good, authentic food?  It's filled with old (aka aged 50+) Korean people xD  Younger folks tend to go to "trendier" fusion places, like coffee shops and cafes.  If you want to find real Korean food, follow the older Korean people.   This is the kind of restaurant that only locals know of and are able to keep regulars because of their food quality. They don't need a flashy setup because people come for the taste ;)


Some people may find the set up dingier and rather fire-hazardous (it SO is), but it all points to good cooking xD

Dak gom tang = Chicken-beef soup

This restaurant literally sells only one thing: dak gom tag. There's a small menu on the wall, but they are all different versions of this beef broth+chicken soup. Remember what I said about the best restaurants only serving one thing ^_^?

Anyway, you flavor the soup to your taste with spring onions and the soy sauce on the table.  The chicken leg is from Korean chickens, which are rangier and slightly less meaty than their American counterparts.   It was cooked so that the meat fell of the bones and melted in your mouth.  It was really clean tasting dish - it's hard to describe.    It's a "health" food, hence why a lot of old people are eating there ^_^ I believe it's pretty traditional as most dishes go.   Very simple but wholesome.  This was one of my favorite meals in Korea, which is saying something considering how many different places I ate.


Those stairs are even more sketchy in real life :\ Definitely would not have passed building inspection in America xD  They even had a pad of cloth taped to the ceiling above the stairs because people kept bumping their head into it ^^

Tangent: See the grannies in the back of the picture?   That is the classic halmoni (granny) in Korea wearing the halmoni "uniform" - wide-brimmed sunhat/cap, polo shirt, sneakers, khaki shorts, and short curly hair.   All grannies pretty much dress like that since it's both practical and comfortable.  Public transportation is free for all elderly citizens so you see a lot of older folk out and about :) They're all slightly off their rocker ^_~, but god knows I want to be just like them after I retire - bustling around a city, sightseeing with all my friends!  

I think free public transportation for senior citizens is something America should really implement.  Yes, senior citizens get discounts but that's really not the same thing as free.  I hesitate to make too many broad assumptions but I think if America did this, a lot of elderly people would become healthier (literally) just by having a way to get around for free.  Even if they have nowhere particular to go, I think the act of just being outside would increase the overall physical and mental health of ALL senior citizens, rich and poor, in America.

For dinner we went to another little restaurant, which was located inside one of the shopping buildings at Namdaemun.  It was sandwiched between the "imported furniture and goods" section and the "clothing/bath" section.   Random huh ^_^?


This place didn't even have a menu. This was some good stuff and I don't even like seafood.  On the left is a salad with raw fish and hot sauce (a sushi salad if you will) and on the right is fish-head soup. You just eat everything with rice.


I was kind of nervous about the fish head soup - my aunt ate every bit of meat of the head O_O (which I didn't do) but damn the soup was tasty.  It was fermented soybean-paste soup with the "deep" flavor Koreans really like: a deep flavor means the soybeans were fermented for a long time.  It's really good for you ^_^

SOOOO GOOD.

After mixing my "sushi salad" I wolfed it down even though I could've done with less lettuce (I hate salads obviously).  But it was crazy good!  It's the best seafood dish I've eaten in my life~  The textures and flavors of the hot sauce + lettuce + raw fish just really make this a very simple yet yummy dish.  The texture of the raw fish was perfect - it tasted very fresh.   Supposedly, the raw fish is brought in fresh every day and never frozen - it certainly tasted that way.  Definitely one of yummiest "salads" I've ever eaten. And the idea of hot sauce instead of dressing appeals greatly to me. Not only is it less fattening, it adds a hella lot more flavor!

*whew* I didn't take any more pictures at Namdaemun Market, but I think you guys get the idea ^_^!  Like I said, this is my favorite marketplace in Seoul, perfect for picking up really useful things (cuz even as a makeup lover I know makeup is more a luxury than a necessity ^_~) and have all these interesting eateries nestled in between.  Don't get turned off by the cramped, occasionally dingy surface - this place is as real as it gets :D  It was really overwhelming at first - the hustle, the crowd, the number of things to look at - but it's so Korean, truly a vibrant clash of the new and old - I loved it :D!

On to Part 12: A Buddhist Temple in Seoul

14 comments :

  1. when i went to korea last year, i didnt get a chance to go to Namdaemun... but i did go to dondaemun and i loved it :) i would really like to take a trip to korea again!

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  2. I really enjoyed this post :D Along with your other Korea posts.

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  3. I love how this is a very local perspective of Korea...love it! post more Korea posts pls =)

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  4. haha those money exchange ladies are hardcore!!!

    i see korean ladies here wearing the halmoni "uniform" too :) they do look comfy! But i always wonder ... why the curly hair?

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  5. What an awesome post! I referred my younger sister to your blog because she really wants to visit Seoul and I know she'll love reading about your trip :) I literally laughed at the part about the ahjusshi, hahaha xD

    Oh my, the food looks so yummy... I was eyeing the banchan, especially the kimchi.. we don't have any in the house right but I want some now lol!
    The sushi type salad looks like the one my mom loves to get at our local Korean market. It's so good I steal some from her, even though I don't like raw fish. <3

    Thank you so much for this post, I hope you do lots more in the future!I want to track down your other travel posts now. ;D

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  6. Thanks for an awesome post. I love how you refer a lot to the culture and stuff. I really enjoyed reading this :) (Though I got most drawn to the seafood pictures lol) I absolutely agree with you. They need to do something about giving old people free transportation. What I have realized over the years is that they tend to save the money, even if its a couple of dollars, to sit home and do nothing instead of going somewhere. Same thing happenes in Hong Kong. They only get free subway rides on Sundays, and I swear thats the only day they would "plan" a trip and go somewhere. That's so unhealthy for them, esp the subway, they are going to be in services regardless. The government should really relook at the problem and figure something out.

    Last but not least, I remember last time I was at Namdaemun, it was more than 10 years ago (im so old fml). I remember how cultural it was! Hope you can do more of these posts because it is definitely adds more dimensions to your blog. I love to read your reviews and makeup related posts but it's always good to know how you feel about certain real life things :)

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  7. with your pics and post makes me want to go to Korea even more then before, and explore it locally!!! and that ahjusshi is definitely no won bin!!! lol

    when you were talking about the exchanges with the old ladies, first thought : sketchy, but then i was also super worried for them carrying so much cash around, until you mentioned their protection ^^

    korean soups are the best!!!!

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  8. I am immeasurably jealous of your having had that 'sushi salad'. ; 3; I love salad and I love fish, so I may have died and gone to heaven, had I eaten it.

    And yes! The restaurant reminds me of the little roadside restaurant, like, shacks you see when driving up the mountains in Jamaica. <33 Not up to code by American standards, but they have THE most amazing stuff. (I think I'm salivating from taste memory.)

    And I actually totally agree on the public transportation being free for the elderly bit. There'd definitely be a shift toward health from that~.

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  9. I love reading travel posts :D Even though I've never been there in person it feels like I was there right with you hehe :D The currency exchange grandmas are really interesting - I don't think I even saw anything like that when I went to China. It's something I'll def keep in mind for the future if I'm traveling to Asia again though :)

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  10. @Joyce aaaha my mom told me it's because when you get old and don't have much hair left, the best way to produce "volume" is to perm it ^_^ It makes sense I guess~ And they cut it short because it's easier to care for and having it too long makes you seem like you "can't let go of your youth." I'm not 100% f that's all correct but yeah, curly hair is def their trademark ^_^ ehe

    @everyone else: thanks peeps ^_^ so motivated to finish this now!

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  11. Have you tried visiting the Dongdaemun? It also has got a huge market and a great place to hang out. I can recommend a good Uzbek restaurant there ~ ^^* yumm~

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  12. I am currently living in Korea teaching English and it's a pleasure to see all of your Korea pictures. I've been to some of these spots and it's great to see them again through your view :)

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  13. What an awesome post! I referred my younger sister to your blog because she really wants to visit Seoul and I know she'll love reading about your trip :) I literally laughed at the part about the ahjusshi, hahaha xD

    Oh my, the food looks so yummy... I was eyeing the banchan, especially the kimchi.. we don't have any in the house right but I want some now lol!
    The sushi type salad looks like the one my mom loves to get at our local Korean market. It's so good I steal some from her, even though I don't like raw fish. <3

    Thank you so much for this post, I hope you do lots more in the future!I want to track down your other travel posts now. ;D

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  14. I love how this is a very local perspective of Korea...love it! post more Korea posts pls =)

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