Seomun Market

We all had the day off yesterday.  It was National Assembly election day here in Korea.  Instead of spending the day lounging around, I decided to join a few friends for a tour of Seomun Traditional Market in Daegu.  I took the following description from the Daegu city website:

“[Seomun] market has a long history as Daegu’s major market, and was one of Korea’s 3 main markets during the Chosun Dynasty (the others being Py’eongyang and Kangkyoung). It moved to its current area during the 1920s and derived its name from its western location inside the Taegi city walls (seo means “West” and mun means “gate”). Almost anything can be bought here, from food to clothing to leather goods, although its most famous products are textiles, clothes, accessories, ceremonial products, and traditional Korean products. “

I knew this place would be pretty big because it has its own subway stop near Bangwoldon (downtown), but I was still surprised by the sheer number of booths and stores inside.  It seemed like there was an unlimited selection.  Need an umbrella?  Got you covered.  Maybe a few live crabs?  Done.  How about a knock-off Louis Vuitton suitcase?  No problem.

The best part about the trip was that I got to go with an awesome group of friends.  I spent most of the time with Conor (Ireland) joking about all of the hideous clothing and fabrics.  The rest of the group included Liz (USA), Sally (England), and Natalie (South Africa).  This was my favorite moment from the trip:

"What on earth are these? Pajamas for a chicken?" -Conor

There were so many tables, stands, booths, and stores in the market that it was difficult to walk around.  There was barely any room in the walkways, but somehow dozens of people on motorcycles and mopeds managed to ride through the crowds.  I came pretty close to a claustrophobic meltdown more than once, but I managed to hold it together.

A surprising number of stands were dedicated to fresh food.  Most of the food stands were manned by old Korean women who sat on the ground and occasionally yelled at people passing by.  A handful of them were nice and smiled at us, but most ignored us or yelled at us in Korean.

These women were selling seafood. One of the bowls was full of small live fish. After putting her hand in the fish bowl, the woman nearest the camera handed Conor a piece of baked chicken. He ate it.

In the middle of our shopping trip, we decided to find a place to eat.  Because it is a traditional market, there are no normal restaurants.  If you want to eat, you have to wait for a seat at one of the booths that sells noodles, intestines (see slide show), or some other food.  We chose one of the noodle stands.  The stands were small and had limited seating, so the group split up.  The girls found a few empty seats at a noodle stand in the middle of a major intersection.

Left to right (not counting Koreans): Liz, Natalie, and Sally.

Conor and I sat down, and I immediately told the woman that we don’t speak Korean.  Unlike most people, who go on speaking Korean as if I’d introduced myself in Korean, the woman at this stand nodded that she understood and tried to help us order.  We pointed to a bowl of noodles that looked appetizing.

Derricious!

The noodles were pretty plain.  I think they were egg noodles – nothing special.  The woman handed us bowls and put a spoonful of hot sauce in each of our bowls.  It was amazing.  Salty, spicy, and not the least bit sweet.  We decided to add another spoon full a few bites into the meal – even better!  Conor went to work on the hard-boiled eggs, eating three as he powered through the huge bowl of noodles.

After lunch we spent at least another hour shopping.  We found an indoor area where higher-end items were sold.  Included in those high-end wares is the creepiest set of dolls I’ve ever seen.

Crossing the entire market took over two hours.  When we reached the other side, we decided to head home.  We spent an hour back-tracking and looking at the cool shops that we missed before.  I snapped too many pictures to include them all in the text, so here is a slide show with all of them:

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All of the socks in the slide show are ones that I bought.  There were so many funny ones, I had to grab a few.  I definitely plan to go back soon.  I would guess that I saw less than half of the market yesterday.  There are probably a lot more fun surprises waiting for me.

Until next time.

-Taft

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