Sunday, August 30, 2009

Namdaemun Market, Seoul, South Korea - How do I get to Namdaemun Market? Where can I find foreign foods and products in Seoul?

This morning I headed out with my monster wide angle lens and started snapping pics. It was a beautiful day.

Gotta love the giraffes . . .

I decided to head to Namdaemun Market because it was only a couple subway stops away from my new place. I went to Hoheyon Station on the Light Blue Line. Click on this link to see an interactive subway map.
Also read wikipedia's entry on the market here. Wikipedia's entry has a link to this interactive map that show pictures of the place when you click on a particular location on the map--cool. also has some info on it too here.
Be aware that a lot of the sellers and stalls are closed on the "1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, many street vendors operate stalls in the alleys" (source). Also, "Most of the vendors can speak a few words of English or Japanese, but you will generally need an interpreter for any intense bargaining"--this is true and if you can go shopping here with a Korean friend it's a good idea, especially if it's your first time in Korea and first time shopping in a market.

Back to my trip to the market . . . arriving at Hoheyon Station I made sure I didn't go the wrong direction on my way out. Go to Exit 5 to find the market.

You can check a Neighborhood Map in subways too when you're heading to places for the first time. This is useful because you can see which exit number is the best for wherever you're heading.

Be aware that getting onto the escalator with people in a rush can sometimes be 'interesting', lol.

You have to go up a series of stairs and/or escalators to get out . . . there are elevators but they can be hard to find. "El--ee-vay-tor o-di-eh-oh?" is the Korean for asking where one is.

Finally, the stairs leading outside . . .

If you're coming by taxi you should go to Gate 6 of the Market. This is the easiest gate to start at if you're wanting to find the underground market area that lies in the center area of the market itself.

When you walk out of the subway exit the market gate will be on your left, and you should turn right and walk straight . . .

A little ways down you'll see a Tourist Information booth. Stop in there and grab pamphlets and maps if you're new to Seoul. You can also ask questions as the Koreans inside can usually speak some English if not excellent English.

Keep walking straight with the tourist booth behind you. Watch out for delivery motorcycles as they tend to drive straight through crowds. I was surprised how few people were here but then I've never been in the market on a Monday morning at 10am.

See . . . there he goes, lol. For foreigners in Korea this can be a pretty startling sight the first few times . . .

If you see the BYC orange building you're standing right in front of the entrance to the underground market. This is a good landmark to watch for to know you're in the right place.

Look for the green glass covered entrance way with concrete stairs leading down into the underground part of the market.

Voila, you're in.

You can find a lot of things down here that you might not be able to at the department stores and other places in Korea.

I'm not sure what is going on here as usually it's open and there are stalls full of products and people shopping . . . there were guys with masks on and they were doing some work.

The right side of this picture with the boarded off section usually looks identical to the left--not sure what's going on . . .

The underground market has dozens of aisles like this piled with food stuffs, clothing, and more.

If you're throwing a party and need beverages this paricular area may be of interest to you, wink wink, lol.

I then headed out to wander around the Jongno Tower area . . . I took more pics and may upload some more later.

Time to get out of the PC Bang (Internet Cafe, I don't have Internet yet in my new place) and enjoy this beautiful day.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

2009 SMOE August Orientation -- My new apartment . . . and yep, there's no gas, no power, and no furniture . . . lol, sigh.

My co-teacher and the office manager picked me up at the drop off point. They had brought the school van (cool) to pick me up and we loaded my luggage into the van.

I'll write more later about the chat I had with my co-teacher during the van ride to the apartment, and the ensuing haggling match the office manager had with the Korean ajumma owner and realtor guy she brought with her to get the highest price . . . my co-teacher and I got watch the manager and realtor duke it out verbally in Korean, each going for a TKO price win; meanwhile in the background this Korean grandfather security guy with Arnold Schwarzenegger arms toured around 'fixing' things in the apartment . . . and occassionally jumping in to the verbal firefight going on about the price of the apartment . . .

I really 'enjoyed' standing around listening and watch the price war.

Anyways, here are pics of my apartment. If I have time later today I'll revisit this post and add more commentary.

I count myself really lucky that I already have plates, silverware, some small appliances, a microwave, desk, and some other things . . . because . . . there's NOTHING in the apartment.

I think the school found out they'd be getting a new foreign teacher at the absolute last second because they hadn't even sorted out the contract and price for the apartment (THIS IS THE *THIRD TIME* I'VE HAD THIS HAPPEN out of 4 public school contracts, lol, sigh). I get that and have no problem with this cause if that's the situation THEY were put in by the powers that be at higher levels I'm totally 'understanding of that situation'--wink wink, expats will get the humor here.

What I'm struggling with is that my co-teacher told me they only have X-dollars left over because my apartment was so expensive to get a contract for. It sounds like I'm going to be 'lucky' to get a bed--and that's it. The real gem was when she told me they'd get me a hotel room, but then hinted it'd only be for a few nights, and then I'd have to be in my apartment with or without a bed and just wait for the bed to arrive. I looked at her then and delivered a few choice words,

"You know, you're lucky I've been here for nearly five years. If you had a new teacher right now they'd be pretty upset that you just said they'd have to stay in their apartment next week without a bed . . ."

I was kind and polite and patient, but even I have a breaking point. I didn't yell or get angry at all and I think she appreciated it. But I don't think she knows what to do with a foreign teacher and as usual I'm going to have to patiently teach and communiate the basics of working with a foreign teacher, sigh.

We'll see how all of this apartment stuff goes--for now I'm staying with Julianne in her apartment because she won the foreign teacher apartment lottery that everybody gets a ticket in when they arrive in Korea. I'll put up pics of her place later.

The one thing that makes all this other crap easy to deal with is the location of my apartment is amazing, and the overall conditions of the place are good (newness, cleanliness, everything seems to work). Even the fact that I have no power or gas because the building manager doesn't work on weekends and no one seemed to think it was necessary to call his butt into to turn it on isn't bothering me . . . lol.

Anyways . . . wish me luck,