If you’ve been reading my blog there’s no need to remind you of how in love with Seoul I am! I feel really lucky to have experienced so many aspects of the city and Korea in general. With all the great things Seoul has to offer it is really difficult to pick a favorite, but I must admit I do have one, and it’s Seoul’s City Wall.
Yesterday, (May 20th 2015) I was thrilled to be invited to attend a VIP tour of the Seoul City Wall lead by Mayor Park! The government is currently working to preserve and beautify what has been one of Seoul’s overlooked gems for years. As of 2014 over 70% of the wall has been restored and currently projects are underway that will create a comfortable place for tourists to enjoy.
Seoul’s city wall follows the natural landscape of Seoul, curving along the ridges of Bygaksan, Naksan , Namsan and Inwangsan and stretching 18.6 km. Built over 620 years ago, the history of Korea is engraved in the many varieties of stone work, 8 city gates and surrounding tourist attractions.
A unique aspect of Seoul’s city wall is that it is easily accessible from Seoul’s subway and in close proximity to many tourism attractions, cafes and restaurants. Mayor Park’s Tour lead us along the Naksan Mountain Trail which can easily be picked up from Dongdaemun Station.
After enjoying the bustle of Dongdaemun, having a delicious meal, and looking at the modern marvel of the Dongdaemun Design center, there is no better way to step away from hustle and bustle of the city (while actually still remaining right in the city) and quietly stroll along the city wall while taking in magnificent views!
The Naksan Mountain Trail is an easy 2.1km portion of the wall and takes under an hour to walk. Café’s, museums and shops line the outskirts of the wall making it a lovely place for tourists to stroll, or take a rest. The trail is wheel chair and stroller accessible and has public restrooms. These facilities have been recently added and is a wonderful addition to this magnificent attraction.
Yesterday was an exceptionally gorgeous day in Seoul, and there was truly no better place to be then enjoying the tranquil city wall while learning about the history and rebuilding efforts from Mayor Parks perspective.
If you are a resident or visitor of Korea do not miss the opportunity to visit a portion of Seoul’s wall. For more information visit www.seoulcitywall.seoul.go.kr or pick up the ‘Seoul City Wall Guide Book’ at any tourist information center.
If you’d like to see more media coverage of the Mayor’s VIP tour you can visit any of the following news agency links:
“The beauty of nomadic life is that you’re detached from the flaws of the surrounding society while you soak up the best it has to offer. You’re an observer. You have no stake. You’re just passing through.”- Richard Boudreaux
I recently stumbled upon this quote while reading an article by the famed travel journalist. His words have described life abroad perfectly. Korea is the 5th country which I have called home. When my husband got a job offer to move here, we had never even visited Asia before, never mind considered living there. With a short stay in the farmlands of America, we were ready to be back abroad, and challenge ourselves with a new culture and home.
When I started researching Korea, I read several books on the country’s culture. Korea, an Eastern society with Confucian roots, summed up in a few hundred pages, was more than a lot to take in. The country’s history, beliefs and culture had my head spinning. My husband and I began to wonder what we had just gotten ourselves into!
As I boarded the plane to take the 20 hour flight I kissed my sweet homeland goodbye and was fully prepared to let things ‘get weird’.
However, as I stepped on to Korean soil for the first time at Incheon Airport things didn’t seem that strange. (Of course I was in one of what has been rated the best airports in the world for several years) Since living in Korea I have taken in a lot of ‘bests.’ Best friends, best sites, best food, best memories, life here had been pretty amazing!
Of course, from the American perspective, where our news so often focuses on military activity from the North, it is sometimes hard to explain to outsiders why I love living in Korea. A common question I receive is, ‘Do you feel safe living there?’. In reality Seoul is one of the safest cities in the world! But like any other country, there are flaws.
This fall when I went to Jeju Island over Chuseok with one of my Korean girlfriends it was another ‘best’ memory. Of course we joined the thousands of others and visited Loveland and giggled at the crazy place and didn’t really think about why this place was here.
I love New York based VICE News and recently they did a video documentary about Korea’s Love Industry I was of course excited to watch. As I observed many of the places that I walk through on a daily basis, it quickly reminded me of some of the country’s quirks and flaws that I do have a vague understanding of, but often block out as a foreigner as I enjoy the best of the country.
Watching this documentary reminded me, as we observe with a foreign eye, that bringing foreign perspective into a society is essential to helping tackle many of these issues. I am happy to know many expats that are doing great things to impact Korea! (Groove Korea’s 100th issue is a great example of this) I hope that by bringing attention to some of the less pleasant aspects of Korea’s rapid modern transformation, we can take time to give back to a country that has let us, pass through, with some of the best of times!
Fall in Korea, a time when we can experience amazing foliage, and with winter around the corner, it also means harvest time. Happy Bus Day is an organization, established by MAFRA, which educates both foreigners and locals about farm practices in Korea through farm to table day trip experiences.
After the Korean War, citizens fled cities and took refuge in the countryside creating industry from the land in farming and agricultural practices. Today this practice has taken a 180 and now almost all of Korea’s population lives in cities and farming is slowly becoming a near extinct profession. The government is looking at the industry in hopes to make it sustainable once again. Through educational programs like Happy Bus Day this is becoming possible. I attended my second trip this October where we set out from the bustle of Seoul City towards the countryside to see what it is really all about.
Our first stop was a farm in Soomy Village located in Yangpyhunh in Gyenggi-do. This area is designated for visitors to experience farm life. It also is the home of many festivals including the strawberry festival in the spring, catfish festival in the summer and kimchi making festival in the fall. We were headed to make Korea’s staple food- of course KIMCHI!
We walked onto the farm where we were faced with a handful of elders and a huge crop of Korean cabbage and turnips. We suited up with aprons, gloves, head coverings and arm protections to avoid the messy kimichi getting on our clothes. We stepped onto a covered patio to get to work on Kimchi production. A master Kimchi maker instructed us on how to create the perfect recipe.
Ingredients were poured in front of us including tiny shrimp, spicy red pepper powder and finally the pre-salted cabbage. We watched an instructor pack the cabbage to turn into Kimchi and then followed her lead. My husband, who has very little (need I say no?) cooking skill came along for the trip. He even had fun trying to craft kimchi! A farmer walked over to him and packed a cabbage leaf full of the spicy mixture popping it into his mouth. Instantly his forehead began to sweat from the spicy flavor. YIKES!
Also among the participants was Danny Shechtman, a noble piece price winner in chemistry. He rolled up his sleeves and began grating cabbage among the locals and expats of all ages. Proving that anyone can have fun making Kimchi, he playfully danced along to the grating motion of his turnip.
Once we had our cabbage prepared for Kimchi we placed it into containers to take home. We were then given pork wrapped with Kimchi in cabbage to snack on. This dish is a traditional meal to eat when Kimchi making.
From all that kimchi making we all had worked up quite the appetite. Our next stop was lunch! We were back on the bus, only to arrive later at Kwang-I Won restaurant, where we were greeted by the MAFRA minister and invited to share a meal with him. The village restaurant specializes in soybean paste and farm to table dinning experiences. The experience from the food, to the restaurant facilities were spectacular.
The restaurant itself had an amazing ambiance complete with 100’s of Kimchi pots in its front and a roof made from broken pots. The menu included nearly a dozen traditional farm fresh dishes incorporating soy sauce soybean paste and other natural enzymes.
The morning was spent with Korea Tradition but after lunch we headed to a place that creates products new to Korea- dairy! I know what you are thinking dairy in Korea? We don’t often think of Cheese, Yogurt and dairy products when we think of Korea but as foreign food becomes more popular in Korea cheese is quickly becoming a favorite food in Korea. Cheese is similar to many of the tastes and textures already in Korean cooking so it is complimentary to the Korean pallet.
Euna Farm is a ranch produces organic milk and creates cheese and yogurt products. Visitors can enjoy experiences farm like and making these products. The facilities also house a pension for those seeking accommodations.
Our experience began with making cheese. The farm owner welcomed us into a kitchen and explained how to make cheese. We marveled as she warmed cheese curds with hot water and then stretched it into a long pizza like shape, before putting it back together into a line and braiding it. The owner only spoke Korea, but interpreters also joined us for the trip. They did a spectacular job translating what was going on. They also were very animated, making it enjoyable to listen to! Often listening to interpretation can be very dry, but we were delighted by, Happy Bus Day’s interpreters and their chrismal!
When it was our turn to give cheese making a go, we poured hot water onto the curd and followed instructions. It was really interesting to see the cheese making process. The most difficult part was braiding the long strands of cheese. The chef had effortlessly done this, but when it was our turn we all struggled! I am not good at braiding hair, but was able to successfully turn my cheese blob into a braid! Yippee! I was happy to show off my cheese braid to my group, and then assist them in the braiding process.
Our next activity was preparing cheese tteokbokki. Tteokbokki is a long skinny rice cake that is commonly eaten in Korea. We moved on to another kitchen where woks were set out and followed a chef in preparing the dish. Tteokbokki is most commonly eaten with a thick red pepper sauce. This fusion dish used vegetables, a small amount of sauce and plenty of cheese! It was delicious and enjoyable to sample.
Our final activity of the day was a scavenger hunt which had us running all around the farm in search of different live stock, and activities. My husband and I ran from place to place, dressing up like farmers, calling for sheep that were grazing in a field and petting a horse that lives on the facilities. We were very excited to WIN the scavenger hunt! Our reward was 3 containers of the yogurt that the farm made. I wasn’t sure how the yogurt would taste, but it ended up being delicious and supplied me with a weeks worth of breakfast!
The days activities were really enjoyable. Getting away from the concrete jungle that makes up Seoul is always refreshing. If you love food, I encourage making a trip to the countryside to experience some of the farm experience program that the government has set up. There is nothing quite like eating food that has just been picked and prepared right before your eyes!
Contact: Hyun Kee Lee 031-775-5205
531 Bongsang-ri, Danwol-myeon Yangpyung-gun, Gyenggi-do, Korea
Kwang-I Won Village Restaurant
Contact: Kwang Ja Kim 021-774-4700
120-11 Yongmoonsan-ro, Youngmoon-myeon, Yangpyung-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Euna Dairy Farm
Contact: OK hyang Cho 031-882-5868
Mountain 41-10, Geumdang-ri, Ganam-myeon, Yeojoo-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Dongdaemun, is there any place like it in the world? Set in the middle of this concrete city is a district of Seoul that sprawls out housing every kind of store one could ever image. From huge mega malls and midnight wholesale markets to it’s tiny huts, stands and street markets, the thousands of streets winding around in a shopping maze will easily have you occupied for hours. It’s nearly impossible for tourists to navigate along the roads without a specific agenda. Luckily common items are housed in the same districts, making it easy for shoppers to browse once they have found the appropriate section.
Dongdaemun’s Pet Alley sells every pet imaginable, specializing in the exotic. Even if you aren’t in the market for a new furry friend, the line of pet shops is a spectacle to see. Thousands of cages fill the stores housing exotic animals. If small rodents are your idea of a great pet then you will be overjoyed to see the hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets and mice. Along with the common household pets are chipmunks, squirrels and hedgehogs. A pretty wild concept for my western brain to get behind the idea of living among a squirrel, but to each their own
There are hundreds of varieties of reptiles. My personal favorites were neon frogs. I’ve never seen anything like it. I also loved the many varieties of mini turtles! If a bird is what your after, there are hundreds of varieties. It’s easy to understand why the bird storeowner is hard of hearing, when you step inside and see (or hear) the endless cages of cawing birds. Fish are also in no short supply, as well as all of the equipment to make a spectacular aquarium.
Seoul has the capability to keep foreigners for an extended stay. Many come for a a year and stay for many! If you’ve come to the decisions to make Seoul your home, and want to share your pad with a pet, get yourself to Dongdaemun pet alley!
Directions- Dongdaemun Station: Exit 7 Walk left before the Cheonggye Stream walking eastward. You will find Pet Alley about 300m down.
Happy Market Monday. This week we are looking at a ‘Market’ aka Bazaar that is only in Seoul for ONE DAY A YEAR! So make sure to mark your calendar and don’t miss the 2014 SIWA and Diplomatic Community Bazaar.
Tis the season to start thinking about Holiday Shopping and MY FAVORITE place to shop for Christmas presents in Seoul, is at the SIWA and Diplomatic Community Bazaar. The bazaar features items from over 40 embassies, welfare organizations, clubs and international vendors. With so many countries being represented there is no telling what you can find!
What’s even better then buying treasures from around the world? Doing it for charity! The event is the largest international fundraiser in Seoul. Since it’s establishment in 1970, it has raised over two billion won of which all profits go directly to Korean Charities! While checking off your Christmas list, your purchases are also helping others!
Photos Courtesy of SIWA Flickr
Last year was my first time attending the Bazaar. I met up with my girlfriends and headed there just in time for lunch. Along with great shopping, there is also an international food court. We walked together browsing all of the international food, wondering exactly what to eat. A cheesy dish from Sweden, sausage from Germany, curry from India? There were even exotic dishes like Afghan style lamb! As we strolled along the food isles, the Turkish Ambassador called us over to his stand and offered us a sample of homemade Turkish delights and coffee. After chatting with him, we all made our selections and then went to sit outside, in the lovely fall air, sampling each others’ dishes.
Once lunch was done it was time to SHOP! There were hundreds of stalls selling gifts, providing activities, and offering information. It really was a one-stop shop to learn about Seoul, buy tons of international products, make new friends, and have a lot of fun! Among the multitude of shoppers, we quickly recognized many familiar faces in the crowd and chatted with the friendly volunteers working the event.
My purchases included many treasures such as an advent calendar filled with European chocolate, some spiced wine from Germany, and pasta from Italy. It isn’t always easy finding these gourmet treats in Seoul so I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity.
After my shopping I visited some of the welfare tables. Some very talented girls were giving manicures in exchange for a donation to their organizations. Some of the orphanages were selling children’s items. An older gentleman had made dozens of hand made stuffed animals. He proudly showed me his craftsmanship as I selected a few to purchase for gifts. My favorite was a silly looking lizard that could also double as a door draft blocker.
We continued around the venue while enjoying a wine tasting. Finally I walked over to my favorite section, the lucky draw! A crowd was gathered around the table and a volunteer explained that you could make a donation and pick tickets out of a bucket. If your ticket had a star or number on it, you won instantly! I decided to donate 20,000 won and take my chances. Even if I didn’t win I figured the money was going to a good cause! After pulling my tickets I walked away with a makeup kit and several gift cards!! Everyone seemed to be winning. It was a blast! I went back a second time and won more prizes! And if you wanted to take a chance at high value prizes, there was a Grand Raffle!
At the end of the day I walked out of the Bazaar juggling handfuls of prizes and gifts. I couldn’t wait to get home and hide them from my family so they could unwrap them for Christmas!
The event is run completely by volunteers. I was so inspired by my time there last year that I had decided to volunteer this year. If you stop by in the afternoon, which I hope you do, visit me at the lucky draw where I will cheer for you to win!
When: Monday, November 10th 10:00am-4:00pm
Where: 63 Convention Center
Subway: Yeoido station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 5.
Take the Free Shuttle or bus no.62 in front of St. Mary’s Hospital Platform
More Information: http://siwapage.com/activities/events/fall-bazaar-save-the-date/
The summer heat is finished and the beauty of fall is upon us. As blue skies open up and cool weather sets in, a peaceful time of year begins. Something that goes hand and hand with this autumn is Festival Season in Korea. Every weekend provinces throughout the country put on amazing festivals showcasing their local specialties. There is so much going on that it is nearly impossible to discover every great event. This is why when Korea Tourism Organizations (KTO) announced that they were recruiting members for ‘Global Group on Cultural and Tourism Festivals’ to attend some of the festivals being held throughout the season I jumped on the opportunity!
KTO put together over 15 trips allowing foreign participants to attend the festivals FREE OF CHARGE! What’s the catch? In return KTO asks participants to simply share their experience and fill out a simple survey. The trip I attended was so interesting that there is no way I would decide not to share my experience.
Great opportunities for foreigners to experience tourism and culture happen often in Korea. If you are interested in attending some make sure to Like! Our facebook page where we post links to opportunities.
The morning of October 4th I joined 20 foreigners from around the world and headed out of Seoul to spend the weekend attending two great festivals: Gimje Horizon Festival and Sancheong Medicinal Herb Festival.
Our first stop was Gimje. The trip was about three hours by bus from Seoul. Gimje is located in North Jeolla Province in the Southwestern part of Korea and known as the “great plains.” The mountainous country flattens in this landmass making the area an ideal place to cultivate crops, specifically rice.
Our tour included some area attractions as well as the festival. Visitors can easily make this a weekend trip, exploring the area. The natural flat landscape littered with Korea’s fall flower- the Cosmo, makes for ideal bike tours. There are also several notable temples. Our first stop was to Simpo Port and Manghaesa Temple Observatory, where we became acquainted with the history of the region. The area is famous for their seafood. Here clams, approximately 5 cm in size, which were once a prized meal for kings, are produced. Walking into any humble shop around Simpo Port will allow you to feast on this local delicacy.
After eating a delicious seafood lunch, at the tiny fishing port (Simpo Port), we took a short walk to Manghaesa Temple. This beautiful and historic Buddhist temple is famous for it’s placement. The small area has stunning beauty and is believed to be a place where Heaven meets Earth. In this area we also stopped at a pavilion that offers 360-degree views of the unobstructed plains.
Following the stop at the pavilion, we made our way to the festival grounds. Gimje Horizon Festival focuses on Korea’s agricultural history and offers guests a glimpse into the heritage that is being preserved by local agricultural communities. Supporting the theme, is an array of programs and events that make the festival fun for the entire family. If farming doesn’t interest you, surely the many interactive events will! Festivities include a dragon competition, kite flying, culinary experience, interactive rice harvesting experiences, a grand torch parade and so much more.
Gimje is the only place in Korea where visitors can observe a panoramic view of the area, encased with rice paddies that expand into the horizon without obstruction by mountains. The setting of the festival encompasses Gimje’s tourism office which includes an observation tower, allowing visitors to view the area as well as the festival.
Once in the tower I was able to quickly orient myself. I could see the hundreds of kites, which the festival is famous for, flying against the blue autumn sky. There were also two massive bamboo dragons which are the centerpiece of the event.
I looked down into the festival with some binoculars, which were available at the top of the observatory, and couldn’t wait to be among the events. Rice paddies allowing visitors to have interactive experiences, kite flying demonstrations and much more were in my view. I giggled as I watched the cute children wearing rice hats, running through fields with nets, catching grasshoppers.
After observing the festival from above, I headed to ground level and walked through the main gate. At the information tent a woman arranged for an English-speaking guide to help me better understand the festival. This service is free and available in several languages to all foreigners.
My guide was a sweet high school student who was able to easily show me around the festival and guide me to the exhibits that interested me. Our first stop was a dueling dragon competition. Two huge dragon costumes, worn by about 10 people, gracefully weaved around a stage. Foreigners and locals were invited to participate in wearing the dragon costume as well as competing in the competitions. Dancing, rock paper scissors, and tug-o-war were just a few of the competitions that were held to see if the red or blue dragon would reign over the festival.
After enjoying this demonstration, we continued into the festival to observe the Grand Dragons. The 2 story dragon statues are stunning and a spectacle like no other. It is in this area that many people fly kites. Just behind the dragons is an agricultural lake with duck boats and paddle boats for visitors to use. Although the experience looked relaxing, I opted not to participate and continued to the Traditional Village where I observed Korean crafts, folk games and then participated in a traditional wedding.
Korean weddings are grand events, often lasting several days and involving entire villages. Locals in costumes reenacted the festivities. Musicians wore traditional costumes and banged drums as they danced in a circle. I was given the opportunity to try on a traditional wedding costume. This was great fun! My guide helped me understand the experience and assured me she would make sure I looked beautiful. Volunteers surrounded me in a replica Hanok field home and placed the outfit on me. After I was dressed in wedding hanbok they put my hair in a bun and placed a braided wig on top as well as a traditional hat and large decorative shaft that pierced through the bun. Because I went on the trip alone, I did not have a groom, so I was introduced to another visitor who I would marry. They ushered me around the hanok home and took pictures in front of alters set up for the wedding and then in front of a tiny box that in ancient times carried the bride into the weddding. My guide explained the entire process and snapped pictures with my camera throughout the event. What fun!
Once back in my street clothes, we continued to what I found the most interesting area of the festival, the Rice Field Village. It housed many interactive experiences. Visitors were allowed to go into the rice fields and harvest their own crop with traditional tools through the supervision of rice farmers. Once the rice was gathered, Korean iron pots were set up on campfires allowing participants to cook and eat rice in traditional fashion. In addition to these activities children were given nets and allowed to run among the rice field and catch locust, or play in a straw-plant land that consisted of archery, sling shots, a petting zoo, a straw- trampoline, slide and rodeo. The straw from the rice plant was also used to create traditional crafts. Participants could gather straw and create ropes and make straw bags.
No festival would be fun without food! A large food court offered both Korean and foreign food for purchase. The area is not only famous for seafood and rice but also beef. Jipyeongseon Hanu or Horizon Korean Beef is the meat of choice in Gimje. At the festival you can visit a butcher stand and purchase meat. It was then barbequed it in a typical Korean fashion and accompanied by side dishes from participating restaurants.
Our group tried a local dish called Gimje Yukhoe Bibimbap which is Bibimbap topped with steak tartare. If you are adventurous enough to eat tartare, I highly recommend sampling the dish. It was delicious!
After dinner our day did not end. The sun set and as the sky darkened my favorite part of the festival began! How could things get even more exciting, right? The Kyeokgolje Torch Parade!! Participants were given tiki torches and after a fun rally session we lit our torches and marched among hundreds of other participants throughout the festival grounds.
The parade ended along the lake. A stage was set up with three plasma globes (the spheres that have pink lights that follow your finger when you touch it) and government figures stood in front of them. They each briefly spoke about the festival. While our lanterns glistened in the cool night sky, each man pressed his finger to the sphere. Music began playing and a massive blue light-up dragon flew through the sky, followed by a beautiful fire works display. The dragon continued to dart through the sky during the entire fireworks display! I had never seen anything like it!
After the fireworks display, we extinguished our lanterns and headed to our hotel for the night. We would arise early the following morning for ANOTHER festival located about two hours from Gimje; the Sancheung Medicine Herb Festival.
Make sure to tune into my next blog post where I will tell you all about it!
Date: October 1-5th 2014
Take an express train to Gimje Station.
Take the festival shuttle bus from the Station to the festival venue.
(Shuttle bus schedule: 07:30-22:30)
Take an express bus to Gimje Bus Terminal.
Take the festival shuttle bus from the Terminal to the festival venue.
(Shuttle bus schedule: 08:00-22:00)
I’ve always been fascinated with oriental medicine. Using herbal medicines and natural healing to stay healthy just seem like the right way to live. Unfortunately, growing up in a western culture, I did not have a lot of exposure to natural curses and practices of oriental medicine. But I am thankful to have had highly developed scientific advancement of modern medicine.
When I arrived in Seoul I was excited to explore oriental medicine and see it being practiced first hand. One of the most exciting markets I have visited is Seoul’s Medicine Market. Korea is a country who’s culture is so en-rooted in traditional medicine practice that many of their everyday meals combine herbal medicine to incorporate health into everyday life.
Located outside Jegi Station in Dongdaemun, is the Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Market. As you leave exit #1, you won’t have a doubt in your mind that you are in the proper location as the smell of herbs intoxicate you. Vendors range from wholesale shops and pharmacies to street vendors and elders that sit on the ground peddling their goods.
A great way to get oriented with Oriental Medicine is to first pay a visit to Seoul’s Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Museum. This state of the art museum is free to visitors! The museum aims to pass on the history and culture of Korean oriental medicine. I was amazed as I walked down the many stairs, into the basement museum and a LED screen illuminated before my eyes giving me an introduction to Korean medicine. Once complete, the screen split and a door opened into the museum. Talk about a display of Korea’s modern technology!
The museum features several sections including the “The History and Culture of Korean Oriental Medicine”, “Korean Oriental Medicine and the Human Body”, “Medicinal Herb Village Story”, “A Prescription for Harmony”, “Korean Oriental Medicine Experience Corner for Children” and “The History and Traditions of Seoul Yangnyeongsi”. Several hundred kinds of Korean medicine are on display at the museum with explanations and descriptions.
The museum features a culture center offering samples of medicinal tea along with other interactive activities. When I visited the center they taught me how to grind and pack herbs in a traditional package. I also had a screening to determine my body type and then was given tips on how to improve my lifestyle by an on-site doctor.
Once back outside the museum, I walked into the market. The main street is decorated with a stunning archway with sculptures of traditional tools on each side. Roaming the streets I immediately was able to recognize some of the medicines I had seen in the museum. Dry frogs and antlers hang from stalls, heaps of roots and leaves lie in piles. “Wow, they really do use this stuff,” was the first thought that came to my mind. It was exciting to actually be able to identify why it was being used. It is one thing to learn about medicine in a museum or book, but seeing it in everyday life is fascinating!
Herb clinics, where oriental medicine doctors give treatments, are scattered throughout the market. If you are looking for a specific treatment, visiting these doctors will surely be beneficial. Westerners often visit clinics to receive help with natural healing for back pain, weight loss and immune system boosting. Many of these clinics also offer traditional treatments like acupuncture and cupping.
The conventional pharmacies, with large floor to ceiling wooden file cabinets, filled with oriental medicine, is a must see site. Elderly women sit in waiting rooms chatting and drinking medicinal tea as they wait for the pharmacist to open the large wood cabinets, each engraved with Korean writing identifying the scientific name of the medicinal herb.
If you are looking to buy some of Korea’s world famous red ginseng, entire buildings located in this district, are filled from basement to rooftop, with vendors offering various forms of ginseng at wholesale prices. Ginseng has been found to aid in type 2 diabetes, physical and mental health stimulation, weight control, menstrual problems and immune system boosting as well as a variety of other benefits. Korea is the largest producer of ginseng. World sales of the product were over 2.1 billion dollars in 2010, with over half coming from South Korea. In effort to build my immune system for the upcoming winter months, I picked up a bottle of red ginseng pills. I’m hoping for a healthy winter with the aid of this supplement!
During your time in Korea, I highly recommend a visit to Seoul’s medicine market! If you’d like to visit the market with a guide, the Seoul Metropolitan Government offers a walking tour free of charge.
Subway: Jegi Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 2
If you love markets make sure to tune in every first Monday of the month where I highlight a different market in Seoul!
Attention Gamers: IF you haven’t been to Video Game Alley yet- RUN THERE! Game consoles from every generation and games can be found here!
Happy Market Monday! We’re back after a month of travel (videos and posts coming soon)!! Yesterday I headed back to the Electronics Market in Yongsan to purchase a card reader. Before heading that way I stopped in at a friends house. His beloved Xbox 360 had just stopped working so we decided to check out Video Game Alley and see if we could find him a new power brick. The unfortunate state of his Xbox led us to explore another interesting specialty market in Seoul!
Video Game Alley is located directly past the electronics market. You walk through the tunnel and continue straight ahead. You will see a giant PlayStation poster on your left hand side. Directly underneath it are some stairs with a red sign. Walk in and the down to the basement.
Nearly every gaming console that has ever been in existence can be found in the Alley with hundreds of games and accessories. I relived my childhood as I found a TV hooked up with Super Nintendo and played a few levels of Mario Brothers while a girl next to me used the gun accessory to play duck hunt.
We were instantly able to find the Power Brick, along with several other models for other Xbox 360s, that we needed. The vendor that sold it to us was very helpful. Prior to coming we took a picture of the label and he made sure that the voltage was correct and it was the exact power cord we needed. The vendor was able to read our picture to determine the precise model required.
They also sold a number of bargain bin xbox 360/playstation games, including recent releases for only 9,800 won. Xbox 1 releases in Korea next month.
If you are into Video games I highly recommend making this trip!
Directions: Sinyongsan Station (Exit 5)
Walk straight through the underground tunnel, just to the north of Ipark Mall.
50m past the tunnel you will see a giant PlayStation billboard on your left.
Look for the Red sign underneath and go down the stairs into Video Game Alley
If you’re a music lover coming to Korea, your in luck! Seoul’s music scene is alive and well. Known worldwide for K-pop, you don’t have to be a fan of this genre to enjoy the music Seoul offers. Eastern and Western talent can be enjoyed all around, from venues as large as international music festivals held at huge stadiums housing tens of thousands to small dive bars found throughout the city.
On July 9th, I attended a concert at the National Theater of Korea during the Yeowoorak festival, a month long event that is reinventing traditional Korean music. This year the festival is presenting Korean music in four themes: Opening, Crossover, Sensation, and Choice. The concert I attended was a crossover performance, which combined three musical acts; DJ Soulscape (Disc-Jockey), Second Session (Jazz), and SC Yun (Alternative/Funk) into one performance with the underlying theme of Korean Music. Each performer is uniquely talented. Combining their music and incorporating traditional Korean music created a show like nothing I have ever seen before.
Held in the Youth Hall, the small circular building was an ideal environment for the performance which was accompanied by a light show and video footage.
There was a constant steady beat that got audience members clapping along and dancing in their seats. The pianist of SC Yun was great fun to watch as he switched from a grand piano to synthesizer and even ran through the crowd using a melodihorn. The music at times seemed psychedelic as DJ Soulscape created new sounds, and the light show and video matched each beat. SC Yun’s unbelievably talented xylophonist performed using several mallets in each hand as Second Session’s drummer and guitarist combined Jazz music to her melody.
When I think of traditional Korean music, the first song that comes to mind, and one that I personally love, is Arirang. I’ve heard this song countless times at events in Korea but I heard it before like the way the trio tackled the song, first with DJ Souscape introducing the melody in the conventional form and then speeding it up to be combined with SC Yun’s synthesizer and eventually adding in Second Session’s Jazz beats. It was a show I won’t soon forget.
Prior to this performance two music events have really stood out to me. One of the first weeks I was in Korea I attended an Ecological Peace Festival at the DMZ. We stayed at a temple in Gangwon. The second night, musicians from the National Theater came and gave a performance. They used Korean instruments to play both Korean and Western Music. The spring night was warm and lanterns were strung along the entirety of the small stage. As the musicians played their instruments I was absolutely blown away by their talent. Dancers came out from the temple in traditional dress and danced along the grounds, their silhouettes bounced off the temple wall. It was enchanting. My jaw dropped and eyes filled with happy tears as the sweet music echoed from the surrounding mountains. Wow!
On the complete opposite spectrum I have enjoyed the Ultra Music Festival in Korea for the past two years. This two day event is held in Olympic stadium on multiple stages. World famous DJ’s showcase their talent as summer days turn into night with some of the most unbelievable mixes.
These two events were both uniquely amazing, and some of my favorite memories in Korea. If someone told me that they could combine the performances into one spectacular show, I’d be skeptical to say the least. I was proven wrong last week when I attended the Yeoksam Music Festival at the National Theater of Korea. It was a completely new and exciting experience and I look forward to seeing the Korean music scene continue to grow while keeping it’s heritage alive.
The Yeowoorak festival is in its 5th year and runs during the entire month of July. A night at the National Theater of Korea is a real treat and the Yeoksam Music Festival has performances that can suit almost any kind of music lover.
Last year audiences filled performances to standing room only with an average seat occupancy of 121%. Generally a night at the Korean Theater comes close to breaking the bank but during the festival tickets are only 30,000 won. The deal gets even better though! As an effort to educate foreigners about Korean music a 50% discount is being offered for foreigners making the tickets just 15,000 won. So with just a few weeks left, do as I did and grab some friends, dress up and have a fun night at the National Theater! It will surely be an unforgettable experience.
The Folk Flea Market is an immense flea market located in the heart of Seoul close to the Cheonggyecheon stream. This market’s aim is to “preserve the culture of the traditional Korean marketplace and draw in visitors with a range of folk items that embody the unique charm of Korea.”
In this two story building you will find vendors selling items including furniture, traditional crafts, fake purses, hiking gear, clothing and much more. The majority of goods are used. Everywhere you look there is something new to discover. The market is overflowing with items. It is not a glamorous place, but then again few traditional markets are.
The majority of the items being sold are folk items including paintings and furniture. Because it is mainly indoors it is a great place to come on a cold or rainy day to escape the weather. On weekends merchants spread out along the surrounding streets as well.
At the entrance there is a program for foreigners to create Korean crafts free of charge. During operating hours you can simply walk into the small trailer on your right hand side and a friendly volunteer will assist you with the daily program.
I came to the market with my sister. We started our time there by utilizing the craft station. The day we visited they were making Korean mask magnets. A volunteer showed us what to do and we spent about an hour painting our magnets. It was a fun activity and a great souvenir to take home.
My sister is an interior designer so I wanted to bring her here to help me find a few pieces of furniture that I could use to decorate my apartment and then ship home once I leave Korea. We wandered around the maze of dealers looking up, down and all around at the thousands of items on display.
There were so many beautiful pieces it was hard to choose. After a few hours walking around both floors, we found several pieces that stood out. We went back to each merchant and inquired about them. The majority of vendors do not speak English but they are able to communicate through showing prices on paper or a calculator. It is common to barter for a final price.
I’ve been to the market now several times. The merchants are always getting new items. I am still in search of a Korean screen I can bring home with me but the ones for sale were out of my price range. I will have to visit again.
In the end I chose three pieces of Korean style furniture: a trunk, nightstand and shelf. Everything including a metal Buddha statue cost me around $400. The merchant also arranged a deliveryman to bring the furniture to my home on the spot. The delivery fee (including a free ride home with my furniture) cost me $20.00.
If you are looking for some great Korean used goods I highly recommend a trip the Folk Flea Market. Even if you are not interested in making a purchase it is still a fun place for browsing. The market also has a small food court with many traditional Korean dishes. There is an ATM on site. I am happy to say that now, no matter where I end up, my home will always have a piece of Korea in it.
2 story indoor folk flea market
Hours: Everyday 10am- 6:30 pm Closed every second and fourth Tuesday