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Friday, 8 May 2015

WOW KOREA! (PART-IX)

Shopping is one such unwritten 'tour' which is mandated on everyone's travel itinerary.It is one outing that we always squeeze out time for no matter how packed our schedule might be because it is something that we simply just can't afford to skip. After all everyone loves to bring home a thing or two from one's visit abroad be it as a keepsake of one's travel advent in a foreign land to give us wonderful memories to live by while some others might love to pick some local fashion like clothing or costume/ chunky jewelry whereas gadget geeks would opt for electronics and some others may pick up knick-knacks from here and here so as to flaunt among friends and alike about their trip overseas. 
Insadong Antique Shop Alley
And Korea is one such destination where you have niche markets for different goods like electronics, jewelry, antiques, furniture, fashion etc. There's no dearth of them! In the ninth post of the Wow Korea series,I shall acquaint you with some popular shopping destinations of Korea for antiques,fashion,jewelry and electronics where you can get the best bargains and deals that one could have possibly hoped for!

Antiques:Though antiques are harder to come by in Korea compared to most other countries primarily because Korea was ravaged by war.Despite the setback,this strong country has bounced back and achieved spectacular growth in decades even though it was literally obliterated by the war. So, if you as a visitor are willing to spend a handsome amount of money, then you can lay your hands on some fine and exquisite antiques from the Korean markets.

a. Insadong Antique Shop Alley: It is widely believed that half of the country's antiques are right here in this market! In fact,the traditional culture of Korea is showcased in the streets of Insa-dong.In the 17th century Joseon Dynasty,the royal studio for painters was here which was later in the 1930's followed by shops selling paper,writing tools,brushes, water bottles,stone weights,old books and much more.Then the shops for old paintings and antiques followed suit.Today the streets are filled with an array of shops consisting of antiques,pottery,hanbok(traditional clothing),hanji (traditional paper),folk crafts, galleries, tea houses,traditional restaurants and much more! If you are in the market looking for a sword from Joseon Dynasty...then your search ends right here for it is in this market that you would find a whole store that's full of them!

Janganpyeong Antique Market
b.Janganpyeong Antique Market: A market that's ‘out with the old and in with the new’ houses four separate arcade of antiques that's all stuffed inside in over hundred small shops!The shops are so filled up with antique and collector's items like old furniture, paintings,pottery, stone statues,old record players and so much more that there's barely any space to squeeze inside!In fact it is in this market that you can find more Buddhas here than in Thailand!Ironically,this market has a quieter atmosphere compared to the rest of the markets and provides for an inspiring ambiance to browse through dusty old treasures right from horsehair hats and Yangban (aristocrat) pipes to wooden shoes, embroidered status insignia and fish-shaped locks!

Itaewon Antique Furniture Street
c. Itaewon Antique Furniture Street: This market that was formed in the 1960's when North American soldiers who were stationed in Yongsan sold their furnitures before returning back to the States today boasts of over 100 antique stores that are clustered together on a single street! Over the years,this area has flourished into a furniture market where shoppers can find rare pieces of furniture,wall clock,tea sets and interior decoration items from all over the world. Furniture's from  across Europe, China and Japan can be all yours if you are willing to pay the price i.e. millions of Won (Korean currency)!

Hwanghak-dong Flea Market
d.Hwanghak-dong Flea Market: This market is comprised of over 500 small stores and is the first flea market in Korea that opened in the early 1950's.The word "flea" refers to the Hwanghak merchants who travel across the country to the farthest remote areas in search of rare goods.Thus it is here you can find items that are not antiques but old nonetheless which were used by the people of the countryside long ago in the times gone by. Hwanghak-dong Flea Market is also nicknamed as the "Goblin" market because it is here that you can find old,broken,obsolete and non-functioning items that are magically made anew at the hands of the merchants!In fact such is their expertise that there are shops in the flea-market trade that have been here for over four decades! If you like going on a treasure hunt or happen to be a collector of abstract items then you can sift through piles of ancient artifacts,junk from the war,old watches,camera,cheap jewelry etc.

Jongno - Jewelry District/Jewel Arcade
Jewelry: If jewelry is what you love and you are willing to pay the price,then head straight to Jongno, the Jewelry District/ Jewel Arcade of Korea! Established after the Korean War ended in 1953,this six decades old market has over thousand jewelry stores clustered together with over 300 designs right from traditional jewelry to the newest piece, manufacturing stores and more than twenty licensed evaluators.The most popular attraction in the capital has come to be the region’s largest jewelry shopping centers of Seoul which is often frequented by newly married couples and tourists from far and wide who love to gift jewels on special occasions (especially wedding jewelry) or get jewels customized according to their design as stores in this district have their own affiliated setting factories.Besides a great variety of rubies,diamonds,domestic amethyst and almost all precious stones you can think of,gold in 14k,18k and 24k,white gold and platinum are also sold here. Expensive watches are often sold here at a whopping discount of 50-60%.Those who are on a fixed budget can explore jewelry shops that sell items at a reasonable price too.Thus it is important  that buyers take their time to look around the shops of the market as the prices vary sharply from shop to shop. Buyers,time to hone your bargaining skills!

Fashion: Everyone (particularly girls) loves to have the latest fashion in their closet and Korea as a fashion destination has a plethora to offer provided you know the right places where you could go shopping and get a good bargain too!
Dongdaemun Market
a.Dongdaemun Market: The largest market that supplies stocks to thousands of fashion retail shops to the whole of Korea has every fashion item you can think of-be it fabric, clothes,accessories and wedding goods.In fact,the latest fashion trends and the newest fabrics make their debut in this market,thus making it a hub to the largest clothing suppliers and frequented by aspiring designers of Korea.Here you can browse through collections that are cheap and diverse which are not just favorites with the average customers but among fashion leaders and major domestic and international buyers as well!And with wholesalers from across the country patronizing the market at night thus making Dongdaemun market a happening night spot too!With shopping malls such as Migliore,Designer's Club,Cerestar and Doosan tower that came up in the late 1990's,it has become a major attraction for the youth where music and dance performances,fashion shows and festivities are held all year round.What started as a traditional market in 1905 experienced a major transformation in the 1970's when it gradually developed as a center of both wholesale and retail textile industry thus boosting to the quick economic growth of Korea at that point in time.And with time, after the construction of mega shopping malls in the area,this market has gone on to become one of the most famous fashion streets of Korea.
Myeongdong Market
b.Myeongdong Market: The shopping mecca of Seoul is one of the busiest too where over one million shoppers pass through this region everyday,thus making it one of the premier shopping destinations of Korea.This trendiest shopping and entertainment area in downtown that has over 300,000 square meters of shops selling clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories and cosmetics consists of some of the city's finest stores and fashion boutiques as well.So whether day or night,young people throng in crowds not just for shopping but have a good time here as they visit restaurants,cafes,coffee shops and night clubs in this area as well!

c. Hongdae: Home to reasonably priced clothing stalls,good discounts and vintage shops, this market is a hot-spot among the youth who can't afford to shop across South of the river. Located near Hongik University,you will find a maze of small fashion shops,dozens of art galleries,cafes,restaurants and street vendors who sell their wares in the evenings.On weekends,flea markets that are called "Free Market" on Saturdays and "Hope Market" on Sundays which is held on Hongdea playground where local artists make and sell unique eco-friendly handicrafts like paintings,household items and even second-hand goods at affordable prices.

Apgujeong Rodeo Street
d.Apgujeong Rodeo Street:This market is a high-end leading fashion destination comprising of shops and boutiques from leading foreign brands,expensive and high quality goods,accessories,reasonably priced hip-hop fashion and customer friendly shops.There are cafes with unique interior designs,Korean,Thai and Japanese restaurants as well as many beauty clinics that attract youngsters and tourists alike.The Rodeo street has emerged as a new cultural zone among youngsters with the coming of Multiplex Cinecity and theatres such as Cineplus and Nanta Theatre (non-verbal performances) that have opened in recent times. And some of you walking by this area might just get lucky when you could happen to bump into famous Korean celebrities who make frequent visits and appearances here.

Yongsan Electronic Market
Electronics: Seoul has one of the biggest electronic markets in the world with the Yongsan Electronic market alone that comprises of over 20 buildings and houses over 5,000 stores selling wide-ranging electronic items like computers, cameras,gaming consoles,softwares, cellphones,appliances, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment's etc. that are all available right here under one roof! Korean-manufactured products are generally 20% cheaper than other retail outlets whereas imported items are comparatively 50% cheaper! This market which has a wide variety of stores have different operating procedures.While traditional retail shops have fixed prices,known brands and offer warranties on their products whereas in other shops there are no price tags mentioned on items,thus offering buyers a golden opportunity to bargain and get a good deal on products they have set their eyes on.Thus buyers must do their research well in advance and be informed about the price range of products they are expecting to buy before they make any purchase.
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I do hope that these inputs on places where you can shop in Korea prove useful to you during your next visit to this abundantly rich country which is brimming with precious goods that it has to offer to the world.Of souvenirs,memorabilia, antiques, electronics, fashion, jewelry and so much more...hope you have a wonderful time on your next shopping spree in Seoul with shopping bags counting from one to... (you decide the number of bags!) :)

For those who missed out on some of my earlier posts in the Wow Korea Series, click here to read: Wow Korea! Part-IWow Korea! Part-IIWow Korea! Part-IIIWow Korea! Part-IVWow Korea! Part-VWow Korea Part-VIWow Korea! Part-VII and Wow Korea! Part-VIII 

Regards,
Sonaal

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