Shopping in Dongdaemun, Seoul

Posted on February 9, 2011

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You can read about my other days in Seoul HERE

After the disappointingly lack of good clothes stores in Myeongdong, I was a woman on a mission- I had to find a good place to buy clothes where I didn’t have to haggle or feel as if I was being eyeballed whilst I perused the aisles!

Dongdaemun, seemed to be the best place to fulfil this desire, since I read online that there were about 4 big shopping malls in that one area! Luckily Dongdaemun was only a few tube stops away from our hotel!

Map of Dongdaemun stores

1st Impressions

My bubble of hope immediately burst when we had managed to navigate our way to the first mall which felt as if it was newly opened because when we stepped in, some floors had no stores in it and some sections were closed off. An immediate feeling of disappointment, once again, swept over me as we realised that “uh oh” this mall was exactly like those in Myeongdong- individual, independent stalls (some unmanaged), where you’d have to (badly) haggle over the none set price. It was nearly 11am and maybe because it was still ‘early’ but the mall was SO empty and most stalls unmanned. So, despite my sister loving a lot of what she saw- we quickly left.

“Hello APM” Mall

The 2nd mall “Hello APM” looked a bit more ‘department store’ compared to the first mall, but it still had that thematically similar way of shopping- individual stalls, no set prices and hard haggling! Because it was still early, I felt as if I was the first visitor to many of the different stalls; consequently I ended up buying a bag for more then I would’ve generally paid but I had to respect the Asian superstition that the first customer of the day would be a reflection of what the sellers would have to expect for the rest of the day. This meant that i didn’t want to be a difficult, hassling customer who would bring other such customers to the stall after my visit; however, saying that, i did manage to nicely haggle £5 off the asking price- the ajumma even complimented my Korean ‘skills’ when I said “it’s alright” to her after I declined buying another handbag…yeah, one polite sentence and I’m a pro!

Migliore

Mall number 3, was the now familiar, “Migliore” mall, which they also have in Myeongdong; this mall faired better than it’s Myeongdong counterpart and the previous two malls in Dongdaemun though  because it had an endless amount of floors and was jam packed with stalls. Here I was able to pick up a cheap tracksuit combo for 10,000 won and my sister an “After school” a la “Bang” type outfit- which I felt she didn’t haggle hard enough for, but because it was uniquely Korean, it all added to the memories.

I enjoyed my time at this mall because it was mind boggingly packed with stalls and I didn’t feel too pressurised or ‘watched’ when I shopped, it also helped that it was a visual feast when it came to looking at clothes because (on the 2 levels of womenswear) there were all the clothes I would’ve normally had to buy online but right in front of me! However 2 things stopped me from splurging; lack of a set price (tiresome haggling required) and a serious lack of changing room areas- I wasn’t going to strip butt naked in the hope that just 2 fine pieces of cloth would sufficiently cover me up!

A TIP for any would be shopper- funnily enough,  nestled amongst the womenswear stalls, was one that sold kinky underwear; my sister didn’t realise and was contemplating buying a few things, it was only when the shopkeeper came over that I realised the truth when I saw large signs that literally said “Sex,” haha, my sister nearly died of embarrassment and couldn’t get away fast enough!

Doota Mall

Immediately next door to “Migliore” was the famous “Doota,” mall which I had only seen whilst watching Korean variety programs (like when Shinee did their clothes buying challenge for “Hello baby”) but being there made things feel a bit more special.

The boys from Shinee hit up "Doota Mall"

 

The mall itself, was probably my favourite of those I visited in Dongdaemun, because it’s where I managed to buy the most stuff with the least hassle.

However before any shopping could be undertaken, we had to grab some lunch; luckily for us the two top floors of Doota are dedicated to open dining! We jumped in the lift and immediately headed to the top floor of these two choices and could smell the food immediately; there was your fast food joint (KFC), dim sum, Korean, and so many more ‘world’ cuisines. Because we missed home cooked food we decided to opt for a Sweet & Sour pork and fried rice combo from one of the stalls; is it just me or is sweet and sour pork always more tangy then anything, even in Seoul? If you decide to eat in Doota then be warned that the prices are more inflated (as expected) compared to restaurants in the street and portion sizes also tend to be small! Furthermore, when it gets crowded you’ll have to fight to find a seat and may end up sharing a table with strangers like we did.

After our brief lunch break we were lucky enough to discover that it was pouring down with rain- from the toilet window (very glamorous I know) it looked as if the pavements were being washed away because of the volume of rain pouring down! Because of this Zeus like weather, we decided to stay in Doota and enjoy exploring the different floors a bit more.

The floor that left the greatest impression on me was the hair accessories floor; there was so much bling bling going on that I wish I had worn shades!

On the various floors I managed to pick up a few cute items; a printed tee like THIS one from yesstyle.com for only 6,000 won and a great selection of souvenirs (a ‘gold’ plate of Dongdaemun gate, tea and keyrings) for those back home. Maybe because of the rain or because it was later in the afternoon but this mall felt a bit more crowded (not uncomfortably so) than the other malls, which was great because you didn’t feel as if all eyes were on you as you looked around.

Outside the malls

It didn’t seem as if the rain would die down anytime soon- so we chanced it and headed outside, in an attempt to find and explore Dongdaemun’s famous Market. The Market was just across the street from Doota and it stretched down the whole street- unfortunately because of the rain and our inappropriate footwear (flat, gladiator sandals) we decided to skip this exploration trip and retreated back to our hotel by 4pm.

 

Final Impressions

Overall I expect that Dongdaemun would’ve been a much better place to shop for clothes (compared to Myeongdong) if the rain wasn’t trying to kill us and if we had planned our visit for the weekend or later in the afternoon. Bargains can be found if you haggle hard enough and even if you don’t, there are a few stores who sell things at a reasonable (set) price- you’ve just got to have the patience to look.

In short Dongdaemun is a good place to kill time because there was so much to take in; it just kills me that we couldn’t explore the Market because I’ve read that it’s a good place to pick up haberdashery items and that sounds like just my thing! If you do pop by the area then make sure you take a photo of Dongdaemun gate- I dunno if my eyesight was hampered because of the weather, but I’m pretty sure you can only take a photo of it from afar because it’s in the middle of a busy junction, however it’s a nice sight to suddenly see- a bit of old tradition amongst the heaving metropolis.

 

 

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Posted in: Seoul