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A window into my Seoul – shop till you drop for souvenirs!

October 9, 2008

How many times have your heard those words: “I must buy something for the folks back home” only to be exchanged later for: “OMG I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ve bought nothing for the folks back home!”

You can picture the scene at the airport; tourists having mild panic attacks while on a last minute souvenir shopping frenzy – nasty to experience, humorous to watch.

It’s a little different for expats like me, who have ample time to browse and think before making that purchase. My Korean souvenir collection has just begun and even though I don’t consider myself a shopper,  I have started to enjoy shopping because of my discovery – Korean crafts.

If you had asked me about Korean crafts before I lived here, I would have given you a blank stare in return. But now having lived here for several years, I can give you a list of crafts rated as some of the best in Asia for quality, beauty and interest. I can also tell you where to look for these while in Seoul. And where to avoid.

Insadong, one of Seoul’s popular shopping areas, is the perfect starting point. It was designed for the tourist in mind including Koreans. Amongst its rustic buildings and cobbled streets are shops heavily laden with quality souvenirs -and some not so quality – for visitors to discover.

Crafts here are produced from throughout South Korea. Its tacky souvenirs are produced offshore from neighbouring China. You won’t have difficulty spotting Korean made crafts, more often they come attached with a proud Korean shop assistant and a price to match. But once you have seen the exquisite beauty in these crafts, you won’t think twice about trading your hand, arm of leg (or partner) for that special gift.

by Cate

by Cate

Insadong’s crafts vary in price to match peoples styles and wallets. If you’re a collector of fine ceramics or art, there are small galleries around selling one-off pieces. If that’s not your style, walk around the area and you’ll find shops that stock cheaper products without compromising quality.

Not all shops specialise in ceramics or art, there are also gifts here for the weight conscious traveller.

by Cate

by Cate

Fine Silks and applique pieces intricately made with patient hands, strong or soft colours, easy to pack.

The special thing I like about Insadong is that it caters to all tastes, including those looking for something a little more…off beat.

by Cate

by Cate

Unless you are in the need for junk, don’t waste your time at those cheap markets like Namdaemun,. My advice is to ignore what the guidebooks say about Namdaemun – its full of Chinese or Vietnamese made junk, overcrowded with locals shopping for food, and it’s unphotogenic. Even the locals cannot understand why tourists flock to this place.

Take the advice of an expat and from locals, head down to Indasong, a great place to shop during the week when its pretty much empty. Annoyingly busy at times during the weekends in the later part of the afternoon. You can shop to your hearts content and when you’re ready to drop, refuel in some of the fine eateries around the place.

Caffeinated Traveller

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3 Comments
  1. Bear permalink
    October 9, 2008 11:12 pm

    Nice advice. Someone told me that before, as well, if I had only listened.

  2. October 11, 2008 9:43 am

    ahh well, now you know it pays to listen to those who are wise.

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