Events / Thoughts

First Impressions


before the shopping excursion

I arrived in Korea yesterday at 4pm (for those of you confused by the time change, it’s 8pm here on June 18th right now) after an absolutely fantastic flight. It was a full flight, I was flying coach, and it was a 14-hour excursion, but Asiana sure knows how to do it: I got bibimbap with my own side of gochujang for God’s sake.

I landed, breezed through customs, found my bags already on the conveyor belt, and bought my bus ticket 4 minutes before the next bus came. Needless to say, the timing was perfect. If the efficiency of the airport reflects anything about the city, then I’m really going to like this place…

I took the spacious, hour-long, bus ride to the Shinnonhyeon stop to meet up with my mom in Gangnam. We’re staying in a little condo until I move into my dorm. It’s located right above a dumpling house, which means I love it already. Every other building in this neighborhood is a restaurant or a bar/club and my mom, aunt, and I took a short walk around before the rain drove us back into the condo.

I, oddly enough, slept through the night with no jet-lag-induced complications and my mom and I set out this morning for Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원) after a great lunch of tonkatsu (돈까스) and soup.

We took the Line 2 subway to get there and, I must say, Seoul has a fantastic public transportation system. Everything is clearly labeled, the cars are clean, spacious, and air conditioned, and the tube itself is encased in glass with sliding doors. One thing that really stands out, however, is the fact that the majority of the subway underground space is devoted to small clothing stores. Clothing racks and shoe displays with bright signs depicting the cheap prices cover the halls of the underground and people seem to be milling around them as though they’ve come there just to look for a good deal on some cute pants as opposed to catching the next subway.

Since it was my first day in Korea and we didn’t want me to get over-tired from the jet lag, we decided that today would be a good day to just walk around and do a little shopping. Once we got to Dongdaemun, we went to Migliore (밀리오레-동대문점), a small shopping center. The stalls are close together and about 100 square feet each with an open floor plan. Some of the clothing was cheap and cute, and some was over-priced and just absurd-looking. For example a pair of baggy, very plain, capri sweat pants was 3300 won (about $30). It’s all about working the different stalls. The prices basically  go for retail, but there’s a little bit of wiggle room on some of the items.

We then went to Doota (두산타워), a larger and more established shopping center. The stalls are larger and more boutiquey and, consequently, things are more expensive in accordance with quality. I left Doota wearing nothing that I entered with, having bought some things that I loved so much that I just had to them wear out (all of which, apart from my shoes, I bought in the menswear section). I also got a dress for my cousin’s wedding and a new pair of glasses that I can pick up on Wednesday (frames and lenses are about half the price in Korea and fit my face much better).

So what did I conclude from my shopping trip? You can get some cheap, unique, and great clothes in Seoul so I’m so glad there’s a lot of empty space in my suitcase.

My mom and I took the subway ride home, exhausted, and stopped for some dinner. Now, I’ve already given a disclaimer that I’m going to be talking a lot about food, so here we go:

I think the thing I love most is that, when choosing our lunch and dinner places, we didn’t look on Yelp, search online, or follow any crowds, we just walked into a random restaurant off the street. For example, we weren’t totally sure what we wanted for lunch so we just stopped by an empt restaurant so small that it only fit three tables a little ways away from the condo. Then when we were looking for a dinner spot, we just popped into a little place on the way back. And they were both delicious and inexpensive. I love Seoul.

Now, this was only one day, but I really think I’m going to like it here. I’m about to fall asleep on my keyboard and I have to get up at 4:45am tomorrow, so until next time!


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