Namdaemun market, Gwangjang night food market, and The Cheonggye Stream, Seoul
Namdaemun market is an energetic and busy market, and like every big market, it has sections selling clothing, fish, nuts, cooking utensils, spices, pickles, food stalls and villagers who come to sell wild vegetables that they’ve gathered in the mountains.
We strolled around, looking at all the offerings on display.
Most of the clothing and fashion seemed unappealing to me.
It seemed that there were three major categories of fashion being offered.
One for the young girls, with mini skirts and leggings, and a lot of girly shirts.
Then there was a collection of clothing for the comfort-oriented women, which basically looked like sweatpants and sweatshirts or golf outfits, in all sorts of colors and confusing patterns.
And then there were what many women find to be “sexy clothing” which to me, seemed to be very old fashioned with fur necklines and fur jackets.
These clothing are worn mostly by Adjumas.
An Adjuma, (also spelled Ajumma) is a derogatory word for an aging married Korean woman or for a spinster.
The Adjumas tend to look very similar.
They wear bright clothing with or without busy patterns printed on them.
They usually wear sun visors instead of hats, and they chemically curl their hair to look more fashionable.
The culture views them as pushy.
They are the women who push to get to the front of the line, and who in general, will elbow their way through life.
Most Adjumas came from rural villages, and find it hard to adjust to life in the busy cities.
But they stay living in the city, to be next to their children and families.
We tasted a nice cinnamon pancake with pine nuts at the food stalls, and when it was lunchtime, we entered the food alley and were gently forced into one of the tiny eateries.
We were served a lovely lunch of pollack which was moist and nice, and we were also served scallion pancakes, miso soup, an egg dish, pickles and rice dotted with quinoa.
Everything was delicious and cost $9 for two people.
After the market we took the subway to the Cheonggyecheon area.
It is a massive and very controversial urban development along the Cheonggye Creek in the center of Seoul.
But before we started the long walk along the stream, we sat in a chic cafe to organize our notes and photos.
The owner of the cafe won the world’s best barista in 2003.
He created a lovely restful place and the drinks were good as well.
After a nice rest, we went to a stroll along the Cheonggye stream urban development.
Not that long ago, villagers who came to Seoul to try to take advantage of the better economic conditions in the city, built a shanty town along this stream.
They lived in makeshift structures built on stilts.
The city gave them a small amount of compensation, destroyed the shanty town and paved with concrete both sides of the river.
The project also directed water from the nearby Han River to the nearly dry steam.
To make the place attractive for strolling, they invited artists to create laser music and light installations along the path.
There was one installation which I liked very much.
It was called the “Flower Garden.”
In it, colorful light was projected on the wall, in the shapes of mechanic digital flowers.
The flowers grew into a lush garden, bloomed, wilted and new ones budded again very rapidly.
It was visually stunning to see.
I was trying to figure out how to get to the Gwangjang night food market, when two guys, Misu and Yangkee came to my help, and told us that they were going there themselves.
We were not sure that we would be able to eat anything in this food market, since I heard they serve mostly meat and hardcore seafood, but I was curious to see the place, so we followed them to the night food market.
So many people have been kind, friendly and helpful to us, offering to guide us the minute I took out a map or looked at the mapping application on my phone.
We strolled together and had a nice conversation with them about the creek development and they showed us and explained all the weird looking food in the market.
The most scary thing was a huge and thick blood sausage made with blood, noodles and rice paste.
Misu and Yangkee were twenty four years young and they just finished their compulsory army service.
Now they were students learning business administration and hoping to become financial advisors.
They were born and grew up in the city, and when we told them about our plans to hike for six weeks around Korea, they laughed and said that they do not think that Korea has enough to offer to fill six weeks.
We ate a scallion pancake in the market and I tried a clam which was roasted and steamed, but to me it was chewy and completely inedible.
I gave it to the people next to me, who were so friendly and helped us to communicate with the owner of the stall.
I think they thought I was crazy, ordering the most expensive delicacy in the stall and not eating it.
Observing the young people in Korea and their diets, I sometime wonder if ANYTHING we know about nutrition in the West is true….
They do not eat just a little, they fill up on a lot of food.
They eat meat three times per day and most like alcohol, yet most of the people are skinny and the girls and young women have flawless skin.
Some of the women seem to have porcelain perfect skin, or like Jules jokingly said, they look like they were sanded with fine sand paper until every imperfection is removed, every mole or beauty mark gone, and they absolutely glow.
I look around the market at those beautiful doll-like young women, and wonder how do they glow on a diet of pig’s feet… pig’s face with the ears… Bugs, larvae, chicken feet, and beef, beef, beef…
It is yet ANOTHER reminder that we are NOT bodies, but spirits and that everything that we believe to be possible, will be so…