SIWA and Diplomatic Community Bazaar

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.

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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!

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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.

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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/

Gimje Horizon’s Festival

Gimje Horizon Festival

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.

Clams
5 cm clams fit for a king!
Our seafood lunch at Simpo Port
Our seafood lunch at Simpo Port

 

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.

360 observation tower
360 observation tower at Simp Port
Views from the observation tower
Views from the observation tower

 

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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 Visitors Center and look out tower
Gimje Visitors Center and look out tower

 

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.

Gimje Visitors Center and look out tower
Gimje Visitors Center and look out tower

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.

 

English Guide
English Guide

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.

 

Dueling Dragons Demonstration
Dueling Dragons Demonstration

Dueling Dragons

 

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.

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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!

 

Getting dressed in traditional wedding outfit
Getting dressed in traditional wedding outfit
Traditional Wedding Dress
Traditional Wedding Dress

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.

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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!

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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.

Getting Ready to march in the lantern parade
Getting Ready to march in the lantern parade

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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!

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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

Transportation
[By train]
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)

[By bus]
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)

For more information: www.festival.gimje.go.kr 

Seoul’s Medicine Market

Seoul's Medicine Market
Seoul’s Medicine Market

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.

 

Don't miss the entrance to Seoul's Medicine Market!
Don’t miss this entrance for Seoul’s Medicine Market!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Want to explore another great market while you’re in the area?  Cheongnyangni Fruit and Vegetable Market is right next door!

Video Game Alley

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!

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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!

 

Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley
Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley

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.

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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.

Video Game Alley
Seoul, Korea

 

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

The Yeowoorak Festival reinvents traditional Korean Music

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.

CrossoverPerformance
Crossover Performance

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.

National Theater of Korea
National Theater of Korea

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.

Click here to listen to some of the performance!

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.

DJ Souscape
DJ Souscape

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.

Yeowoorak Festival

Booking: 02)2280-4022/5870

For more information: www.ntok.go.kr

http://www.facebook.com/ntokourmusic

Seoul Folk Flea Market

 

 

Seoul Folk Flea Market
Beautiful pieces of furniture on display throughout the market

 

Seoul’s  Folk Flea Market

 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.

Endless rows of treasures
Endless rows of treasures

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.

The entrance of the Market
The entrance of the Market

 

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.

Seoul Folk Flea Market
Seoul Folk Flea Market

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Our craft project before painting

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.

Seoul Folk Flea Market Screen

 

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.

Seoul Folk Flea Market
Seoul Folk Flea Market

Thousands of statues

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.

 

Endless rows of treasures
Endless rows of treasures
Folk Trunk
Seoul Folk Flea Market

 

Facilities:

  • 2 story indoor folk flea market
  •   Food Court
  •     Public Bathrooms
  •      ATM

Hours: Everyday 10am- 6:30 pm Closed every second and fourth Tuesday

 

Address 21, Cheonho-daero 4-gil, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
Subway Line 1 Sinseol-dong Stn. Exit 9

IVI: A Korea based Company that is bettering the world

After a long day, I am always tempted to dance my way out of work to the latest K-Pop hit towards the closest theme café where I can drop double digits on a coffee while petting dogs, trying on wedding dresses or getting my feet manicured by fish.   These quirky cafes and plethora of other awesome Seoul eateries is just one of the many reasons why I have fallen head over heals for this city.

Yesterday an online video was launched that made me think I should forgo one of these beloved trips each month to budget a few bucks towards giving back to a local charity and making the world a better place.

The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is an independent international organization headquartered in the heart of Seoul who’s mission is to ‘discover, develop and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for developing nations.’ The development and licensure of Shanchol™, an oral cholera vaccine (that has been approved by the World Health organization), is one of IVI’s most significant, groundbreaking contributions.

Last month I was able to meet the staff of IVI at a launch party of the “Choose Your World” campaign. Their staff is comprised of passionate individuals who are working to make a difference for the world. While the anti-vaccine crowd has gotten a lot of hype in the western world, many people forget that in developing countries, which lack the luxury of affordable vaccinations, vaccines can be the difference between life and death. “We develop vaccines for the poor” stated Deborah Hong of Communications and Advocacy at IVI. “We wanted to break away from the seriousness of what we do, …(by doing) something that is humorous, human and real.”

IVI Lab
IVI creates vaccines that save lives

 

Through support from around the world, South Korea was able to rise from utter devastation, after the Korean War, into the ranks of the world’s top 20 nations. Today, Korea has become a high tech wired and fully developed nation capable of providing aid to others.

 

Korea has given me a home, paycheck, many friendships and endless memories in the short year I’ve lived here and for that I am grateful. To show my appreciation and respect for my adopted (albeit temporary) home I am supporting a Korea based company that is impacting the world.

 

This month IVI launched a video campaign entitled “Choose Your World,” that shows what big impacts a small donation can make. The 3-minute video depicts the cutting-edge research, development and vetting of new vaccines, and vaccine delivery to at-risk regions of the world and is funded purely by charitable gifts.

 

“We wanted to clearly depict how much a small donation can do for the citizens of the world who suffer from conditions that can be easily prevented,” said Dr. Thomas F. Wierzba, Deputy Director General of Vaccine Development & Delivery at IVI, “We believe that the campaign has effectively captured the significance of the work we do, and we look forward to sharing our vision with the world.”

NYK Media Group (an ad-media boutique based out of Seoul) produced the campaign, which includes a behind the scenes documentary and microsite that helps to showcase what IVI does in terms that the every day user can understand.

donate to IVI
You can easily donate right on your phone

The media campaign is also running on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube making it easy to check out the great things your cash is doing through IVI and let you know about their recent developments through your news feed. So for this Seoulmate, the taste of instant coffee and relying on my husband’s bad jokes for entertainment a few (more) days a month is a small sacrifice.

Saint Augustin Thai Restaurant

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Saint Augustin Restaurant Review 

 

Thailand…

When I think of Thailand I think of Paradise. I think of escaping a dreary Seoul winter. I think of  lazy days spent lounging on white sand beaches, sipping fresh coconuts topped off with Sang Som, riding elephants, and discovering some of the most stunning views I could ever dream of. But above and beyond, when I think of Thailand I think of their dynamite food!

I love living in Seoul, but one thing Korea lacks is tropical beach destinations. During cold months this sun worshiper longs to relive the sites, smells, and sweet memories of Thailand.  A great Thai dinner always puts a smile on my face, as my belly gets full of delicious food while simultaneously filling my head with cherished memories.

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Recently I was invited to try Saint Augustin Thai Restaurant in Myengdong’s  M-Plaza. Saint Augustin has franchises throughout Seoul. They have an extensive menu of Thai dishes with their signature dish being the Poo Phad Phong Kari “fried soft-shelled crab in yellow curry.”

The restaurant has good ambiance, with posh décor, an attentive wait staff and nicely plated dishes, which makes for a sophisticated dining experience (quite the contrast from many of the meals I ate  in Thailand on plastic benches with wobbly tables located in alleyways).

Saint Augustin Thai Food Restaurant; Seoul, South Korea
Saint Augustin Thai Food Restaurant

The food does not resemble the street food your might remember from a backpacking trip through Thailand, but has been refined to match the atmosphere of the restaurant. Dishes come in large portions and are perfect for sharing.   Menu prices start at 18,000 won for noodle and rice dishes and 29,000 won for main courses.  Set lunch specials are also available.

My friend joined me for this outing and we had a fun night full of house red wine, decent food, and good conversation. Our waiter introduced us to the menu and made recommendations based on the restaurant’s most popular dishes. We followed his advice and began our meal with an appetizer of Thai Shrimp Dumplings (9,000).

Thai Shrimp Dumplings
Thai Shrimp Dumplings with Chile Sauce

For our main courses we ordered the Poo Phad Phong Kari (29,000) and Goongyai Pad Thai (18,000). I really enjoyed the Poo Phad Phong. The crab was delicate and fresh tasting with egg in the curry sauce.   The Pad Thai was not one of the best I’ve had but well made with light sauce and perfectly cooked noodles. I was impressed by a large prawn that accompanied the Pad Thai but found the taste a little fishy.

Poo Phad Phong Kar
Poo Phad Phong Kar
Thai Food
Saint Augustin

Overall, we had a lovely dinning experience. Was it one of my favorite Thai dinners in Seoul? No and I would be more likely to choose a more authentic place in the future with more affordable prices.

Saint Augustin

Thai ‘Fusion Asian Food’

2.5 out of 5 Stars

27, Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
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Directions: Myeong-dong Station, line 4, Exit #6 Turn left and walk down the main street.  You will see M-Plaza 200m on your right directly after Forever 21.

M-Plaza
M-Plaza

**M-Plaza also houses Seoul Tourism Organization where they offer many wonderful services including tourism information, traditional craft classes and a hanbok photo experience free of charge!

Yongsan Electronics Market

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You don’t have to be a gadget guro, techy, or electronics lover to want to check out the Yongsan Electronics Market. This massive market sprawls behind Yongsan station and is comprised of 5 large buildings and over 2000 shops both inside and out. If it plugs in a wall or is battery operated you can find it here as well as every cord, computer part, cd, game, or gadget you could every dream of.   Electronic lovers be warned, if you head to the market you may find yourself lost in the maze of shops for days. Korea is the 2nd largest electronics consumer in the world and wandering around can easily put that into perspective.

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I love my computer, phone, and gadgets as much as the next person, but when I found myself needing an item I was less then excited to make the trip. However, when I got to the market, I suddenly became a kid in a candy shop.   I was able to find the software I had come to purchase within minutes.   I walked to the street vendors selling every movie, game, and software ever made and asked for my item. Somehow they were effortlessly able to retrieve the CD from their massive collection of booklets. Talk about organization! If you don’t speak Korean do not fear!  Many vendors speak some English and if not, they can find someone who speaks English to assist you.  With a little negotiation I purchased the CD and continued to walk around, not sure what direction to look in as I was surrounded by technology.

 

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So what exactly can you find here? Each building and floor is zoned into different categories making for organized chaos. A shopping trip to the electronics market, like many of Seoul’s markets, is always an intense, chaotic experience. For those interested in building computers, the Yongsan electronic market offers millions of parts. You can buy individual items or pay a merchant to build a computer for you.

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Lost or forgot a certain cord or charger while in Seoul? No fear the market surely will have it as well as converters, USB, and memory card storage and cases. Home appliances such as rice cookers, vacuums and hair straighter are also sold in several of the buildings. If you’re looking for fun gadgets like blue tooth speakers, light up ear buds, or cell phone cases many of the stores carry these items.

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Prices are very reasonable and often can be negotiated. Americans visiting the shop find that prices are similar to sale prices in the U.S. Foreigners coming from countries that have higher electronic prices will be sure to find a bargain for what they are looking for here. Want additional savings? Carry cash and most merchants will give you a 5-10% discount.

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Najin, Seonin, Wonhyo:  9:30am-7:30pm

Electronics Land: 10:00am-7:30pm

Terminal Market: 10:00am-8:00pm

Space 9: 10:00 am- 8:00 pm

Many of the markets are closed the first and third Sunday of Each month.

Directions:

Subway:  Yongan Station (Line 1)  Exit 2 – Market is directly across from the Station

Sinyongsan Station (Line 4)  Exit 5

 

 

Seoul Grand Park Rose Garden


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Spring is here, and as the temperatures rise, flowers continue to bloom all around Seoul. In recent weeks I’ve noticed roses blooming on many street corners. I don’t think anyone can deny the beauty of a rose! Wanting to experience a day surrounded by these beautiful flowers, I headed to Seoul Grand Park.

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Seoul Grand Park is located in Gyeonggi-do nestled in front of some of Seoul’s beautiful mountains. The trip takes about 40 minutes, via subway line number 4, south from Seoul center. The entertainment park spreads over 7,000,000 square km and offers a variety of facilities including an amusement park (Seoul Land), zoo, chairlift viewing ride, botanical garden and rose garden. You can have great fun there whether going to a specific attraction or making a day of your trip!

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When you arrive at Seoul Grand Park Station the park will be directly outside of exit 2. If you follow the path you will come to a large building. This facility offers a shuttle service that will bring you anywhere in the park for 1,000 won per trip. If you prefer to walk, go around the building to your right and you can follow the path to the main circle route that will bring you to all attractions. The rose garden is about a 1/2 kilometer walk. You will find it across from the zoo on your left.

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There are over 20,000 roses in the garden and 203 species. As of today (May 22, 2014) many roses are in bloom at the park. They are expected to be at their peak the last week in May through the first week in June. A trip to the garden offers beautiful sites and fabulous aromas. The rose garden festival is scheduled this year for May 24th through June 30th.

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The Rose garden is set next to Seoul Grand Park’s lake. The facility offers pavilions for shade and is a perfect place to pack a picnic and enjoy the day. We had a great time strolling through the park and seeing the many kinds of roses. Each species is labeled in English. It was interesting to see the color variations and smell each species in order to experience each individual aroma.

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Seoul Grand Park Rose Garden

Admission: Adult ticket: 2,000 won

*Each attraction at Seoul Grand Park can be purchased a-la-carte or a discounted bundle ticket is available at the main entrance.
Directions: Seoul Grand Park Station (Subway Line 4) Exit 2Rose

Garden Festival: May 24 2014- June 30, 2014

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Life Travel Seoul

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