We spent a possibly embarrassing amount of our 9-day trip to Korea browsing markets. We never even made it south of the Han River. (So never went Gangnam Style! But think of the shops that must be there…)
But we did enjoy ourselves. And we could probably spend another month strolling just these markets and still not see all of them. Let alone those south of the river.
(Obviously this all means we will need to return to Korea soon.)
Here are a few of our finds from Saturday, where we returned to Gwangjang Market (We even went back to the crazy covered market to eat at that one place that had some vegetarian offerings again. There was a hat at a shop nearby which had some hats I really wanted) and wandered around Dongdaemun, hitting up some markets (and major department stores) we hadn’t explored before.
This is the only photo I got from the covered market in Gwangjang – it was really too crowded to take photos. But these little octopus tanks were at every single food stall.
(Poor little things! Aardvark, who loves octopuses, loved seeing them. I obviously did not tell her why they were everywhere and kept her view as far from the griddles, where they were often still writhing as they were being cooked, as possible.)
With the hat I was stalking. And the cute sign outside the shop. While I tried on different hats inside, Aardvark was coming up with creative ways to style hers. Maybe inside-out will be all the rage?
Couldn’t resist a photo – a stack of Korean Harry Potter books outside a used-book vendor’s stall.
Inside a fancy department store, I was surprised by the trends in sunglasses. Is looking like Lady Gaga the thing to do now?!
Lots of the shades were very creative, like this TV set, tons of Minecraft inspired ones, and more.
This one might fit in at a masquerade.
And these take the Cat Eyes glasses look to a new extreme.
OK, maybe not new. It turns out cat shaped glasses (as well as other crazy shaped glasses) were everywhere – in the department store, as well as knock-off sunglasses in some of the more crowded, knock-off-style markets. Which means these must have been trendy for a while. I must be far behind the times in fashion. No one who knows me (or has seen the photos on this blog) is surprised
In one of the major Lotte Duty Free shopping malls, they had 5 different floors devoted to skincare and cosmetics.
But only one floor on which you can buy kids, liquor & tobacco, apparently?
In August, friends of ours who were in Japan with us in 2011 came to visit, and brought Aardvark some “Potty Candy” from Japan. Each box contains one plastic potty and stickers you can decorate it with (with different, collectible themes – ours was from an “International” line, where the toilet might be American, Japanese, French or Canadian; this one is from a Tokyo line – you can decorate them to represent different neighborhoods in Japan, like Harajuku). You assemble the potty, then pour some powder into the bowl through the water tank, then add 3 tank-lids full of water, stir, and the powder starts foaming up through the bowl of the toilet (think Pop Rocks). And you drink it through a straw.
Perfect for a 3 year old.
Who wants that to be the souvenir we bring all her friends when we return.
Don tried to explain that toys and particularly unique candies in Japan often have one run, and then are gone from the market forever, especially since trends turn over so fast here.
So imagine our surprise to find one (ONE!) box of potty candy outside a random candy-toiletries vendor booth we passed!
Later that day, while Don had a meeting in another part of the city, Aardvark and I headed to Myeong-dong. Apparently THIS is where everyone was! This street was non-stop crowded, most likely with tourists (since it was a long holiday weekend). This is one of the major tourist/shopping districts in Seoul, apparently. And if you are familiar with Korean skincare products (and the global obsession with them) you might be able to see from the shop signs why this street is so crowded: Nature Republic, Innisfree, The Face Store, Etude, LOHBs, Olive-whatever, Holika Holika, Banila Co., Tony Moly, It’s Skin and every other Korean skincare company you’ve heard of (and probably many you haven’t?) have shops here. And on the next street. And another street over. It was crazy.
But more on Korean skincare in a separate, forthcoming post.