Shopping & Money, Seoul
South Korea's monetary unit is the won (KRW) and due to the financial crisis, It had depreciated 35% to the US Dollar. The Exchange rate today is 1 USD: 1,380 KRW! The Won is available into ₩1, ₩5,₩10, ₩50, ₩100, ₩500 coins and ₩1000, ₩5000, ₩10000 denominations!
Foreign Currencies can be exchanged at most banks, and travelers cheques cashed at authorized banks and hotels.
Ahh, Seoul, the shoppers paradise. Although great bargains can be had pretty much all over Seoul, don't forget to try the markets! They're fantastic. And how much were the jeans? I found a pair for $1 (U.S.) at the current exchange rate.
You will usually get a better deal in the markets if you have a friend who speaks the language. But don't worry if you don't. I've found some pretty good bargains using just a calculator and a lot of hand gestures. The people are extremely friendly and animated. The food is gorgeous (and spicy!).
I also enjoyed looking at the underground markets near the subway system. I could lose myself in them looking at all of the kitschy stuff. I never did reach the end. I think they go on for miles and miles...
Fondest memory: My friend and I stayed at a Yogwan which is a very cheap hotel. Most of the time, they're used for lovers or young couples, so ours had a condom machine in the room. Very classy, I know.
But the price was excellent. It was cheap and clean (and the sheets & walls were decorated in pink satin).
When we arrived at the Yogwan, the manager looked at us as if we were insane because we booked the room for 3 nights. But when we checked out, the manager (this darling little old man who didn't speak a word of English) shoved a bunch of souvenier postcards into our hands as a gift. They were standard pictures of Seoul, but it was so nice of him to give us a parting gift. You meet the nicest people in the most unusual places.
This was once Seoul's main city gate. Originally it was built in the 14th century but the gate now standing was reconstructed in the 1960's after the Korean War.
Take the subway to Seoul Station on line 1 or line 4 and walk. There is a great market nearby.
This is not a favorite thing, it is a least favorite thing. Expect the unexpected, and illogical, if you plan on being in Seoul/Korea for an extended period.
I went to my (Kookmin) bank to request a Check Card. These are new to Korea and offer the convenience of a crediit card plus additional tax benefits (you get a tax credit when you use your credit card or check card!). It is secured by cash in the account just like a debit card, so you cannot 'charge' more than is in the account. It is free (except for a 1,000 won (USD 0.80) initial charge) was well.
The bad news? Foreigners, even resident aliens like myself, cannot get them. Why? Oh, because Korean banks are conservative. These are the same banks that went so crazy issuing credit cards a few years ago that their bad loans rates went up to about 10%!
How can a Check/debit card be risky?!? It is 100% covered by the cash in the account at the bank. There is no risk of loss for the bank at all. But, I guess it is not 'conservative' for the bank to offer such things.
Oh well, I guess I'll apply for a credit card and expose the bank to credit risk. Go figure.
Favorite thing: No matter where you go in South Korea, the markets are one of the most interesting places to visit. You'll find a mix of vegetables, fruit, plastic goods and clothing. But, more importantly, you'll find kind people and, as always in this country, a very warm welcome.
Favorite thing: Do some shopping, because Seoul is a paradise for those, who like to go shopping. If you look for a nice souvenir only, or for electronic goods, or music cds or clothing ... Seoul has it all! Have a look at Namdaemun or Dongdaemun Market, at the huge department stores like Lotte or Hyundai, or at Myeongdong ... Last one has a good nightlife too .... Don´t forget to take enough money, you will love it!
Visit Insadong, streets filled with antique and art stores, galleries, and restaurants inside some of the oldest buildings on the city.
Fondest memory: The food! Cheap and wonderful Korean reataurants line the streets; Street food to warm you during the harsh winters; sitting on a heated floor with my shoes off and eating a 'Korean pizza' with my dear friend Kim, Me; the soothing effects of atomic-hot kimchee chige or sam gae tang during the headcold season. Tokk manduguk for New Years Day! More panchan (side dishes) than there is room on the table! I could go on and on . . .
Fondest memory: Seoul is a wonderful place for shopping. Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Itaewon....The city is so alive even during the midnight. You can shop as well as view the street performance. Shopping wise, there is so much choices, stalls on the street or levels and levels of shops in shopping centre. Hey!!! Check out the lady on the right hand side. Cool hah!!!! : )
wholesale shoe market in dondaemun, insa-dong for all things 'traditionally korean,' art galleries in apgujung-dong, check out the palaces, the rodin museum in the samsung building in namdaemun,kyung-dong market for all sorts of korean foods- great prices (near chung-yang-ni train station), hong-dae for a slightly bohemian feel,
Fondest memory: well, my best memories are of my grandparents, aunt and I hanging out at their farm outside of seoul eating fruit and looking up at the sky, noticing how quiet it is just an hour outside of seoul. Cricket, cicadas, and other night sounds. i definitely think if you visit korea, go to the countryside and camp out for a few days and it will be such a break from the constant noise of seoul.
Insa Dong(Old Town Rich in Fragrance of Authentic Korean Traditions )
Fondest memory: Come to Insa-dong and feel the authentic zest of Korean life with a long history. Either side of this street is literally packed with a mass of galleries, antique shops, Korean paper goods shops, picture mounting stores, handicraft workshops, pottery stores, calligrapher's and painter's studios, Korean tea houses, Korean restaurants, and so on. The signboards set up on the walls of the stores, many of which read phrases or words from Korean literary classics, reflect the real aspects of life and art of Koreans dating back to the ancient times. Queen Elizabeth II paid her tribute of praise to the beauty of the original style pottery and traditional costumes of Korea discovered in this unique area during her visit in April 1999. The Insadong Festival, held every October, offers traditional outdoor music and dance shows, sampling parties of regional cuisine of the country, and other varied events. Shuttle service connecting over 10 galleries in this area and P'yongch'ang-dong, an area to the north containing several art museums, is provided by an art museum for just 1,000 won (1$).
My favorite street is Insadong.
There're many antique shops,ceramic ware shops,traditional clothes shops and traditional goods shops.
One of traditional tearooms in this area,near Insa Gallary,is very good.
It is a Korean traditional house, and you can relax.
It serves kind of herbal tea ,ginger tea,aromatic citron tea,or apricot tea.Menu says each tea is good for your parts of body and makes you relax.
Seoul has been recently known as Shopping Mecca. Surely most famous shopping spots are Dongdaemun and Namdaemun! It nearly opens for 24 hours! You can find this place well since it is bright at night too!!
Dongdaemun is famous for clothes. It is cheap and good in quality and design. You can find many many tourists and shoppers from all around the world, especially from China, Japan and Russia. I also go there sometimes. Most famous place is Doota and Milliore. In many shops they accept credit cards as well.
Namdaemun has more variety in goods. It surely has everthing you want. In Namdaemun, there are sectors for cultery, clothes, baby clothes, flowers, interior decorations, imported goods, clocks, hair accessories, Jinseng, Traditional souveniers and much more. Actually in here you can buy Korean traditional souveniers much cheaper than famous shopping streets such as Insadong and Itaewon. Try to bargain when you buy. It is a good fun as well.
Picture : Namdaemun which was the old South Gate of Seoul. Taken from Namdaemun Market side.
I would recommend to visit Insa-dong which is located in the center of Seoul. You can taste a flavour of old Korean art and life. Insa-dong is full of nice and little restaurants along the small pathes and also you can buy little souveniers at the souvenirs shops along the main road.
Also, if you want to buy clothes, visit Dongdaemun, Namdaemun and Myung-Dong. You will be simply amazed!!! It's cheap and good in quality and design. It's simply a shopping mecca!!!
Also, visit Namsan Hanok(Korean traditional house) Maul(town). It has the performance on Saturday and Sunday. And it is closed on every Tuesday. If you have enquiries about this town, call 2266-6937. Visit http://tourism.metro.seoul.kr/html/eng/e_main.html for more information about Seoul in English.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory was the live feelings in Seoul. It's so crowded and even you would be annoyed due to too many people you meet on subways, streets and everywhere. However, when I was away from Seoul for one year, I missed its dynamic atmosphere mostly. Seoul has a beautiful river and many places to see. Also, it is very safe at night to walk around, too.
Tongdaemon is Seoul's other main gate. It was built in 1869 and reconstructed after the Korean War.
Located at Tongdaemon Station on lines 1 and 4.
Favorite thing: Go shopping. You will find a lot of markets, each one dedicated to different kind of things: electronics, souvernirs, used things, ...