Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Korea Day 6 - All Circuits Blown Out!

We have, of course, hundreds of photos. It is so difficult to choose just a few to show you on this blog, but here goes! We started the morning slowly. Daniella did a little shredding and pasting in the living room of our apartment, setting up an impromptu studio there.
Then we set out into the streets. On the way, I decided to get my shoes shined in a tiny booth on the sidewalk. While sitting in there, I noticed that the shoe-shiner was watching TV in his closet-sized space - a talk-show about prostate cancer, with vivid drawings of cross-sections of the human body, with syringe inserted .....
Our destination today was the Domdaemun Market, a vast shopping area - not for tourists, but for buyers of textiles, fabrics, accessories like buttons, lace, fur trim, beads, zippers, and for clothing both ready made, and made to order. For starters we went into a department store, multi-level, but it was full of very lovely booths, each from a different vendor - it was called Dootah Market. There were 7 floors there, one of designer fashion, one for men, one for children, one for shoes and purses, one for jewelry and accessories, one for sportswear, and a food court on the top floor where we ate the hottest food to-date in Korea. Yikes, our eyes were tearing up, noses running, and yes, it was also delicious! This poem on the store front caught our eye.Next we entered the most mind-boggling complex of buildings. Without exaggeration, I would estimate that many buildings were 5 city-blocks long, 5 stories high, and a full block wide, just PACKED with vendors of every imaginable good made of textiles. And there were at least a dozen buildings this size. These are suppliers for other vendors, kind of like a wholesale place, although you could buy one of anything, no problem. First we walked through dozens of booths for scarves, hats, socks, sweaters, mittens, childrens clothes, towels, blouses, dresses, belts, jewelry, dresses, hats, coats, and so much more. Spaces were tiny and crammed tightly together. The aisles went on forever. Many people were squeezed in, bargaining over merchandise to stock their own stores or street booths. Here's Wendy looking at hats.
Yesterday I mentioned the bathrooms in Korea. Today we went into one of the most stunning yet, in that department store (yes, I'm jumping around, get over it!) First, it had a giant picture window with fabulous view. Here are the elegant sinks and the tile in the bathroom was some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Toilets had heated bidet seats, kind of a standard in many places.

This coulple eating lunch at an outdoor table on a rooftop was part of the view from that bathroom window...
as was this old fort (?).
After lunch, and after we felt that our circuits had already been blown out, we walked across an avenue that was split by a beautiful stream with fountains, right in the middle of all that textile commercialism. We spent another hour or so in a huge, multi-story building full of nothing but fabric, vast seas of it, stretching out in all directions before us, floor after floor of the most beautiful, exotic, and colorful textiles. Finally we had to get out of there, so we went out into the streets again.

In this neighborhood, the streets are teeming with activity. Street vendors line the sidewalks on both sides of the streets, in front of shops selling every kind of item, cookware, hardware, rope, sporting goods, you name it, you can find it here (however nothing like electronics or gadgets - this stuff is more traditional, for homemakers and tradespeople). We walked randomly, going in and out of shops, and watching the vibrant street life. We saw no other "foreigners" all day and attracted a lot of attention from the locals as we strolled along, all of it friendly. People would come up and ask us "Where you from?" and then giggle when we told them!We thought maybe we had better get another suitcase, after all this shopping. Whaddya think, Judy, will this one work?As is we hadn't seen enough, we then entered the Gwangjang Market, a covered building, once again as big as several city blocks, filled with alleys, crossroads, and multi-levels. This was like stepping back in time, to an older and more traditional Korea. The center aisles had big wooden tables and benches, where people were eating the most amazing stuff. We tasted the popular mung-bean pancakes, but opted not to taste the pig snouts, cheeks, ears, trotters, brains, or blood sausages that were displayed in abundance. The aromas were incredible, and we walked here, with our mouths hanging open, for a long time before heading back to the hotel.

Our day ended with a meal, in our apartment, of take-out assorted dumplings, and another night walk out into Insadong. Delicious!

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