Insadong (인사동)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

If you're looking for traditional Korean arts and crafts, or even some souvenirs that are made in Korea, Insadong (인사동) is one of the best places to go. It's filled with many antique shops, art galleries, and even traditional restaurants and tea houses.

It happened to be raining when we went (even the main street was quite empty), so we spent most of our time at Ssamziegil (쌈지길), a comprehensive shopping centre which houses over 70 stores that sell various fashion items, accessories, art and even food. I knew I had to buy at least one thing from there, so I got a really cute handmade music box from a shop called Moony Orgel. But what I loved about Ssamziegil the most was the way it looked with its pretty lights and spiral staircase—and not to mention its Christmas decorations!

I was originally planning to get my own stamp or dojang (도장) made at a shop called Saegim Sori (새김소리), but because many of the good-looking ones were quite expensive (about AUD$50-$80), I gave it a pass. (It'll be a great gift for a Korean couple who's about to get married though!)

Since Insadong is a very traditional and cultural area, most, if not all, of the signs are written in Hangul. For example, Étude House is written as 에뛰드하우스 and Starbucks is written as 스타벅스. In fact, Insadong's Starbucks is the only store in the world that has its name written in a language other than English. I personally think it's great idea that they decided to do that—it adds a touch of authenticity and preserves Korean culture without needing to compromise the identity of the global brand.

The hotteok (호떡) shop in Insadong I had originally wanted to visit is called Sambodang (삼보당), but because it's no longer there, we just visited a random hotteok stop on the main street. I can't remember the name of the shop, but I think it was the only hotteok stop on the main street. The hotteok was the same size as the one we had at Samcheongdong, but it didn't taste as good.

If you want to see what it feels like in a more traditional neighbourhood, do stop by Insadong to see what Korean culture has to offer. It's less crowded than any of the major shopping districts so those wanting a more urban shopping experience should have an enjoyable visit. We stayed for about half a day and what I liked most was the food (there was so much good food!) and the Korean crafts.

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