27 May 2011

Six Senses Tour - Seoul Korea

Hi there and welcome aboard the latest 'Six Senses' tour.
Today we are privileged to have the uber-talented Emily from 'Good Things' as our guide. 
Hold onto your hat friend as this is a tour to really rock your senses!
So far on this wonderful series that Felicity is hosting we've seen the natural beauty of places like Australia's Northern Beaches, America's New Hampshire and (most recently) the Netherlands, shine through.  
Well, brace yourself Gifters because I'm about to take you far away from those idyllic settings and drop you straight in to the heart of a busy, bustling vibrant city!  Welcome to Seoul, South Korea!

There are so many fascinating, beautiful, intriguing places we could go, but I've decided to take you to one of my favourite spots in Seoul - today we're going to visit Namdaemun Market (남대문시장), one of Seoul's biggest and oldest markets.

As we walk in and look about, you might be starting to get an inkling of just how big this market is.
It's huge, and labyrinth-like and frankly, sometimes overwhelming.  You can literally buy almost anything here - dried fish, watermelons, children's clothing, watches, ginseng, hair accessories and Kpop paraphernalia, to name just a few!

But a visit to Namdaemun isn't necessarily about shopping.  I'm lucky enough to have Namdaemun on my door step so I get to walk through it almost every day and the atmosphere of the market - especially when the sun is shining - never fails to cheer me up.  Sometimes I find it positively inspiring!

So stop and take a moment.  Have a look around - notice the colours of the umbrellas, the patterns of the stacked goods, the hand written signs, the happy Japanese tourists laden with bags, the chattering groups of ajummas (아줌마 - older married women).

Feel the soft (and sometimes not so soft) bump of bodies walking past you. And don't get annoyed when it happens, it's just the side effect of having so many people living in such close confines, your sense of personal space most definitely shrinks!

Listen to the stall holders spruiking their wares, mainly in Korean but often in Japanese too, and sometimes with a smattering of Mandarin or English or French thrown in for good measure.  

Oh, wait a minute...what's that smell?  The one that's a little like dirty socks being cooked in mud?
Looks like we've just got downwind of the bondaegi (번데기) cart which sells a popular snack made by braising silkworms in soy sauce and other seaonings. It has what's described as an 'earthy' aroma, and if you're game to try a cup you are a braver soul than I!

Let's move on shall we?  And perhaps on to my favourite part of the market?
If you're in any way interested in art or craft I have a feeling you might enjoy this, for here's a part of the market dedicated entirely to paper and ribbon in all kinds of patterns and colours imaginable!  If you're working on a project, or you need a bit of inspiration, this is most definitely the place to come. I think when we finally move on from Korea this stretch of little shops will be the place I miss the most.

Feeling peckish yet?  Well, you might be pleased to hear that there is a whole range of street food available aside from those silk worms.  Almost every corner has a stand or a stall selling something to eat or drink.  If you're a fan of dried squid and spicy rice cakes (a bit like Korean gnocchi), you're well catered for.  And don't worry, if you're like me and not a fan of either of those things there is still plenty of delicious food on offer to whet your taste buds.  There's salty bowls of seaweed noodle soup, deliciously fresh steamed dumplings (you'll have to queue for those, but they're worth it!), tiny coffee shops that claim they offer 'everything you need' and carts selling sugary cinnamon pastries.

But, if you want an inside tip, here's two of my favourite market snacks:

First up, there's these grilled pockets of deliciousness (I don't know their name!) which are kind of flaky pastry pouches crisped up on an oily griller and filled with a stir fry of seasoned glass noodles, carrot and spring onion.  Hot and oh so tasty, there's a few stalls that sell these but those in the know head to an innocuous looking stall towards the north of the market (you can tell it apart by the queue of people - there is always a queue at this stand!).  All you need is 1,000 won (about AU $1.00) and this tasty thing is yours.  Yum!

And next, seeing as it's a sunny and warm blue sky kind of day, some luscious fresh fruit is in order, don't you think? During these early Summer days a new type of street stall emerges, selling single serve chunks of the tastiest watermelon, pineapple and honeydew melon that you'll ever have the pleasure to eat!  Feel the crunch of the fruit, taste it's sweetness, and wipe the juice off your chin (and a little note - it's best to eat on the spot, most Koreans don't eat and walk).
A deliciously healthy way to end our visit to Namdaemun market!

I hope you had fun, do come again soon okay?  Maybe next time I can show you around Myeondong, or Insadong, or take you up into the mountains or...

Thank you Emily, what a riot of colours, mouth-watering food and new concepts to get my head around!  
I will definitely be taking you up on that offer to guide us through another fascinating pocket of Korea.

Now dear Gifter you know the drill.  Emily has put a lot of effort into creating this tour for you and I know that she will be thrilled if you take a minute to tell her what struck you most about this adventure.

Oh and be sure to pop on over to her blog 'Good Things' where you will find all sorts of treats: traveling things, crafty things, tasty things, fun things, new things, vintage things, pretty things, things that go woof [my personal favourite!] and things that are on Emily's mind.

Thanks again Emily, you are a truly wonderful Gifter!

Oh and speaking of traveling and adventures - Bon Voyage to my adored parents Margy B & Ian who are zooming off for a three month holiday in the Northern Hemisphere today - safe travels & much serendipity.


  1. Wow, that was a fantastic tour, I love all the colours and that fabric shop looks like heaven to me! But silkworms! EK! I've only been to Malaysia and Singapore but really enjoyed them both esp the markets so I think I'd love Korea.
    Thanks for the tour Emily & Felicity,

  2. I loved this tour! My brother just adopted a little boy from Seoul and I have really enjoyed this glimpse into my lovely new nephew's birth place. Thank you! x

  3. Love the look of that lunch!!I'm starving right now, and could do with some asian food...your photos making me hungry!

    And whose pooch? a little dax?

  4. That was great!!! I feel like I can relate to Seoul being in HK, with the crazy crowds and busy markets. But great to see it in another city. Those silk worms? Urghhh!! But that fried pocket of goodness looked AMAZING! Thanks for a great ride and popping over to your blog now! xx

  5. a lot happening in this city. Have been for a visit and Emilly has a lovely blog. Thank you for introducing us to Emily. Charmaine

  6. This tour was sensational, Emily! My goodness, I will never think of silkworms in the same light again ☺. That market really must be an assault on all your senses. But the stationery and haberdashery fiend in me could not have passed that little spot by without buying something. Make that lots of things! I'm scooting over to your blog now. J x

  7. oh wow, i am feeling very nostalgic for some good old kimchi and so-ju! I lived in Korea for twelve months (teaching english) and how I loved it..I used to feel like I had gone down the rabbit hole and ended up in Wonderland (which i did as the school franchise I worked for was Wonderland...). I used to love visiting these markets and share your favorite part. How amazing are all the little bits and bobs you can find? Thanks for a wonderful tour!

    Gill xo

  8. Quite a tour, filled with color and many things foreign to us. Interesting!

  9. Well I am so glad to be back on line! Yay!! It was a pleasure to have Emily show me around the Market where she lives how exciting I am drooling over what she was eating, I could have just taken a nibble :) (I wish). The colour of products was great & the ribbon shop would have been my dream place to go what treasures. Thanks for that. x

  10. look at all that fabulous colour. What a wonderful tour. Thankyou for the introductions Felicity. Popping over to visit Emily now.

    Happy Weekend to you...x

  11. Hey I have only just finished work today, so have not commented yet. Great tour. My partner spent 3 and half months living in Seoul for his dance works. He loved it and remembers his Market well. He loves Kim Chee although I dont like his breath afterwards.

    Thanks Emily


  12. Thank you all for your wonderful comments (and thanks to Felicity for giving me this opportunity!).

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the tour, and it is fascinating to read through the different connections that some of you have to Korea - it's surprising the number of people of 'met' in cyberspace who have spent some time here!

    And Andrea - my pooch! Yes, a little dachshund, she features heavily on my blog...

  13. Great tour Emily! Loved it all (I liked reading about the silkworms but I know I'd lack the courage to taste them too!). I think I could spend a bit of time around those paper and ribbon shops.

  14. Wow.. all of sudden, I miss Seoul so very much. I was born in Seoul, now living in freezing cold Melbourne.(smile). I miss going to 남대문시장 with my mom.



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Felicity x