Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bored Friday: Dongdaemun

As usual, after Friday prayers at Itaewon, I am free to roam the Seoul metropolitan. This time, it is snowing! Yeah...

This place was not so far from Itaewon too. Long ago Seoul was a small fortress city surrounded by walls. Dongdaemun was named after one of the four gates that served as a entry point to the fort. 'Dong' means east. 'Dae' means big and 'mun' is simply a door or a gate. This is the gate now, covered in a vast box of scaffolding as it was set on fire by a Korean arson. Yay! Go for Korean patriotism!

You can see a part of it here.
So much for patriotism.
I want to bring forward the problem faced by 'aliens' in Korea. The Koreans have a thing for their own country and pure blood Koreans. Throughout history the Korean peninsula was battered by war. Attack from the Japanese occupation gave the deepest scar on them. So using the spirit of hatred to other nations, they unite. Look at the cars in the photo above, every single one of them is Korean made. This is a good thing for them. But not so good thing for non-Koreans. I heard stories on how mixed race Koreans are denied to serve in the military. And foreigners being addressed in informal Korean is a norm. Being a single-raced nation, they are less open to other races in short. The place where we can easily feel being alienated is here in Dongdaemun. I will tell you how.

The Chonggyechon Stream also runs through this part of town by the way.
There are four major malls that really gets your attention.
Le Doota. This place is like a departmental store.
Quite expensive but it offers a calm shopping experience.
Migliore is the best place to shop here. Although the shopkeepers might be very annoying, pulling your hands and stuff, you can haggle for the price you want as the stores inside is individually owned. Not stores, stalls.
Maxstyle. Pretty much the same. Just a newer building.
Korean girlfriends lalala...
They love Kpop dance so at night they would call young shoppers or anybody to come on stage and dance to the Kpop beats. 
Hello apm. Pretty much the same thing.
Some street food along the way? Muslim travelers be advised these things might contain meat.
Goodmorning City. Also new but the quietest of them all. Not much shoppers come here.
Across the street of those large malls are a place called Dongdaemun History and Culture Park still in construction.
The Dongdaemun Market area always come to the travel guides as a recommended shopping area. This place is a good area to do your shopping indeed, but I wouldn't recommend it much for travelers. In these malls, the shops are not really shops. They're more like stalls, each one with different owners. So while browsing through the stores you can't really walk around looking at the clothes displayed. The shopkeepers are constantly trying to get your attention and sometimes to the extent of pulling your arms, ushering you to their store. This is when Korean language skills and the ability to judge the price of a product is a must. There will be no price tags at all. You must come up with your own price and then haggle.

If you're good, you're gonna get good clothes with dirt cheap prices. But I'm an inexperienced haggler. Usually I would just talk about price and deal with it. But when they start to ask me 'where are you from?' I would try to leave as soon as possible as they might have sensed that you're a foreigner, an ALIEN. When this happens, it might sound trouble. I experienced some situations after answering the dreaded question, they tried to sell me a simple short sleeved round neck shirt for 30,000 won, equivalent to RM82 or US$26. I can get a better quality round neck shirt with nice designs at UNIQLO at 5,000 won, or RM13 or US$4.

Why? This is serious deal for travelers from abroad. They might get cheated to pay excessive amount of money for something that is not worth the money they paid. I also found a guy wanting me to buy a wool coat, usually around 30,000-50,000 won at 300,000 won. As I try to leave he lowers it to 240,000 won, then to 100,000 won. I was not very happy with the first price as 300,000 won is like RM800. What he thinks he is Salvatore Feragamo asking for the price? As I leave he got angry, faking it in the intention of intimidating me to buy his overpriced product in fear and without thinking.

I got some great offers starting at 70,000won and he said that it can be lowered some more by a nice old man. Now that's what I call a honest business practice. This is because the nice uncle didn't bother to ask the dreaded question I said before. The problem all began with a question, "where did you come from?"

And that's how we became ALIENS in Korea.

More street food along the way. Boiled fishcakes called 'odeng' is quite something
As I was walking to the subway station I reminisced my days in Malaysia where I spent my shopping time with my family in our favourite shopping malls like Jusco and Parkson. I can browse the store with utmost comfort and peace without hands pulling my arms or people constantly trying to get my attention. I can compare brands and products just by browsing the store. I can also compare prices as everything is tagged. Flip the tag and the price will surely be written there. Well, it is illegal under Malaysian law for stores to not label their items with price tags. I can buy branded high quality goods like t:zed, Larrie and many other locally recognized brands with reasonable price. I won't get dirt cheap prices but I get what I pay for, I wont get cheated either. Everything is done in a peaceful departmental store atmosphere, with air-condition as a relief from the tropical heat.

When you're out, then you'll start to appreciate the little details that makes you love your own country. It is sad to hear that many Malaysians failed to appreciate their own land and complain a lot about it. To Malaysians who always thought the grass is greener on the other side, come to the other side. You'll see. That's all what I have to say. Like my Facebook page or don't forget to follow my blog.


Anonymous said...

seronoknya!! :D

ChentaEty said...

Hye!long time i didn't visit your site really nice..make me really want to go this place..thanks for the info yaa..=)

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