Sunday, July 6, 2014

Last day of Exploration!

With only 5 days left of our Korea adventure, all 20 of us spent our last day of free time doing different activities. On my last day of free time I decided to finish up souvenir shopping and spend some time exploring a different part of Seoul I wasn't able to see before. Even in a month we haven't begun to see that much of Seoul (the capital where we have spent most of our time) because it is so large, it holds more than half of the entire population!

Some college students from Gwangju National University of Education suggested Dongdaemun for shopping, so that is precisely where Tyler, Cassidy, and I started our day. It is not far from Myeongdong where we have all spent some time before. Dongdaemun wasn't exactly what we expected, but it was still quite an interesting experience just to see it.

There are huge department stores that we didn't get to see, but we spent all of our time there exploring the street vendors. It was similar to many other places we've seen, but it did seem to cater more toward the local population than tourists looking for souvenirs. If I didn't have to keep my suitcase under 50 pounds for the flight home I may have spent more time shopping for clothes there! The picture below shows just one small area of it, and let me tell you, most of it was much busier than this shows.


Street food in Dongdaemun

We took in the sights at Dongdaemun, watching all the locals buy clothes, electronics, and of course food before we went over to another "unchartered" territory in Seoul. We explored Namdaemun later in the afternoon since Dongdaemun (while interesting) didn't have souvenirs for us to give to family and keep for ourselves. Nongdaemun was not lacking in the souvenir department and reminded me a lot of a combination between the traditional souvenirs you find in Insadong mixed with some of the items like clothes seen in Dongdaemun. Basically, best of both worlds sort of deal!

Typical souvenir shop you would see in Seoul

We didn't know exactly what to expect from Namdaemun, but we did know that it is the largest market area in Korea. It was a great place to end out our last day to explore on our own. Some of the college students we have been able to talk to have told us they like this market more than Insadong. It is not as much as a tourist spot and the prices are cheaper compared to Insadong. Because it isn't as big of a tourist area, it makes it easier to bargain. I was also able to practice some of the Korean I learned in class to ask for discounts! Even more impressive - I was successful!  I would say "깎아 주세요" which basically means "give me a discount please" and sounds like "gaga ju sa yo" (very fun to say!).

It is definitely a bittersweet feeling knowing this was our last day exploring on our own. Only a couple days left of our fantastic adventure in Korea, and we are all getting ready to visit Yeoju (yet another high school!) the next two days!

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