Sunday, October 19, 2014

Shop and Eat Seoul Part 2: Insadong and Lotte Mart

Insadong was our last stop for shopping.  This time, we didn't have any specific items to buy, but it was nice to stroll around this area for unique specialty items, usually from local crafters and galleries.  I managed to find three special items from here.

We visited Insadong on a Monday afternoon, just before sending off one of our travel buddies.  We took the subway train from Seoul Station to Anguk Station and took Exit #6, walked the street and joined the subway again on the station before Anguk.

The street gives you a bit of the local but modern culture as products sold here are either new creative crafts or art from street galleries.  Souvenirs of course are abundant here, but people are most amazed with the unique finds.

I myself got a miniature set of Korean sochu and beer bottles since I love to collect miniature items.  I also found those cute socks whose design cuts across both sock.  I got a fat penguin design and a Paul Frank monkey design.  At Samziegil, I got myself a personalized casual bracelet made of unique charms like camera, padlock, watch, etc - a little bit like the Pandora style bracelets.

Shop and Eat Seoul Part 1: Myeongdong

Visiting the local shopping streets and markets versus large department stores and malls, is something that I love to do when I travel.  This time though, I didn't have too much time to visit a traditional local market, so I headed to the shopping districts where they at least had individual stores.

Seoul has several popular places to go to for foreign visitors. Itaewon, Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Myeongdong, Insadong are at least the most common ones. When I visited Seoul the first time, we had visited Itaewon, which is a global fashion and food mecca.  But I wanted to see what Korea has to offer.  So this time, my friend brought me to Myeongdong, which offers a balance of mid to high priced global and local brands.

I love the atmosphere at Myeongdong.  We had just spent a good part of the day relaxing outdoors at Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden.  It was nice change to stroll through a busy and lively street this time.  The weather was just right, getting cooler as the autumn months come in.  The street was crowded, people going into all directions, but I could still stand around and just watch people go by.  I see mostly Asian faces, although I know through their language that they weren't locals.  It was tempting to go and see international stores like Uniqlo and H&M, but I'd rather spend my short time exploring their local stores which were mainly cosmetic stores. Store sales folks invite you as soon as you even spend a second gazing at their products or their store. They immediately hand you a tiny basket and a free sample, announce their promotions and politely lead you towards their store.

Beauty/Cosmetic Products

One of my goals was to get some cosmetic products for which Korea is known for:  BB cream and facial masks ;-)  We stepped into almost all the cosmetic shops: Innisfree, Missha, Nature Republic, Face Shop, Skin Food and Olive Young, some of which are already available back home, but it was nice to scan through their store even just to window shop.  A few blocks away, you'd find the same stores too, so if you miss one, you'll always get a chance to find another one just a few steps away.  I'm not so much a cosmetic product fan, but I am curious as to the secret that Korea offers as Korean skin is one of the best in the world.  I got a tube of BB cream from Missha to try, since I'm the lazy type wherein I hate long regimens.  BB cream stands for Blemish Balm or Beauty Balm, and is an all-in-one cosmetic that often acts as a moisturizer, primer, sunscreen, skin treatment, concealer and light foundation.  Perfect for me, right?  They even have CC cream now and soon, DD cream as well.  They pretty much have the same concept, but some have additional features like whitening and color correction.