My second day in Seoul taught me that when left to my own devices, I shop. I don’t spend much money, but I can browse for hours on end. I like seeing what’s out there and knowing how much it costs. It is a skill that my mother taught me at a very early age and believe me, I have practiced. My theory is that when I do decide to make a purchase, I like to know if I’m getting a good deal. I have also learned over the last year that if I don’t know what’s out there, I make bad impulse purchases. Especially in foreign countries. For instance, I went shopping alone twice in Thailand and walked away both times with clothes that I have yet to wear because once I got home, I hated them. I did a similar thing in India, and in Jingdezhen. I am trying to learn the lesson that I am not good at impulse purchases. I cannot walk into a store in a country I have never been to and buy anything within an hour. I just can’t and shouldn’t do it. I need to take my time, so on Thursday in Seoul, I took my time.
I left room 306 around 10am and was headed to the Dongdaemun market area. From what I had read and heard, there were blocks and blocks filled with shopping malls filled with anything you could dream of, and that for clothes, the Doota building was the best (Thanks Anna!). Along the way I found a great second hand shop. The place was a vintage gold mine filled with cameras, typewriters and lanterns that are getting harder and harder to find in the States. I was extremely tempted by the typewriters….but what was I going to do with a typewriter from the 1950′s in Asia? If that shop had been in Portland or Nashville, I would have a new treasure sitting in my apartment. Oh, and my previous statement about refraining from impulse purchases in foreign countries does not apply to vintage or second hand items. I am quite confident in my taste for old things, and I know what I will love forever. But the fact that I have to carry everything I buy across an ocean at some point limits my consumption.
When I made it to the Doota shopping mall, my feet already hurt so I took a break at the coffee shop on the second floor and people watched for a bit. This mall is similar to most mid-higher end malls/department stores in Asia. The interior is clean and bright with the merchandise separated by designer in an open market stall set-up. The ground floor is all of the high-end fashion designers so I browsed through quickly and tried not to look at the price tags. The second floor is “young-career” and I spent most of my time here. Many of the clothing lines were filled with soft cottons and linens in calm colors, and I was very tempted. The first basement was dedicated to up and coming designers, and most of the clothes were geared towards teenagers and college students. Some of it was interesting, but nothing special.
By this point my feet were hurting again, and I was hungry. Rather than attempt to find something to eat at street level, I went to the 7th floor of the Doota building to eat at their food garden, and I am so glad I did. The dining area has a panoramic view of Dongdaemun, the food was fresh and tasty, and there were plenty of fashionable girls and guys to watch and see what the kids are wearing these days.
With my stomach full and feet rested, I headed across the Cheongyecheon Stream to Dongdaemun Shopping Town, otherwise known as the Craft Mecca of Korea. The building is six floors packed wall to wall with every imaginable sewing/knitting/embroidery/fashion design supply you can imagine. I was overwhelmed by the hordes of fashion forward ladies and gents walking around with their personal design books overflowing with sketches and fabric swatches searching for the perfect zipper or button. If Bravo ever wanted to do a Project Runway in Seoul, this would be the place the designers would come to purchase their materials.
On the upper floors, it was a little less hectic and I did make a couple purchases. At one stall, I stocked up on basic notions like tailors chalk, hand sewing needles, leather thimbles and a measuring tape. At another I stocked up on a range of super soft felt in amazing browns, yellows and blues at 1,000won ($1) per sheet. Now I have the motivation AND materials to teach myself how to embroider!
After four hours of shopping, I stopped by the hostel to drop off my purchases and check email. Then I was out again and headed to the college area close to the Sinchon Station. Within a ten or twenty block radius there are at least five large colleges including Ewha Womans University, Yonsei University, Seogang University, Hongik University and Kyunggi University. Every street was packed with college coeds walking around with friends shopping, eating, drinking coffee, reading magazines, hitting baseballs at the batting cage, playing video games and chatting. It was a fun atmosphere that reminded me of my days at UTK and made me think of my cousin that starts her first year of college this fall. She’s going to have such a blast, and Chattanooga will never be the same!!
Of course, where there are college students, there is shopping. I dropped in a few more stores, almost bought a camera bag and tried to buy some cool shoes that would be quite comfortable….but my feet are too big. No size 9 in Seoul!