The markets in Seoul

Seoul is a city of contrasts – traditional and modern. The spicy food aroma attracts you from afar and lures you into another world. It is a world of street markets and traditional vendors plying their trade, in many cases for generations. Why not join me as I explore the Insadong district of Seoul.

Just off the main streets, we can explore a maze of back alleys filled with street traders. In the distance, you can still hear the hum of the traffic, but muted now, and another sound emerges – the sound of pots and pans and food vendors and spruikers. Here, you can see an old man with a knife sharpening stall on a cart

Korean knife sharpener, Seoul

Korean knife sharpener, Seoul

The variety of goods available was breathtaking. For example, there were hat sellers with every style you could think of, including traditional Korean style hats that resembled horse riding helmets, through to berets and dress hats of every description. Even trilby-style hats and sun hats of every description

Hat stall, Seoul

Hat stall, Seoul

The toy maker was a delight – with many automata and whirligigs along with traditional spinning tops and puppets all carved from wood and delightfully painted. Some were whimsical, like the flying pigs, and others had a more steampunk flavour – such as this whirligig flying boat. There were dolls and maniquins, small planes from a bygone era, and animals, each ornately and skillfully carved.

Korean toy seller, Seoul

Korean toy seller, Seoul

And they were there day and night. Of course, all this power shopping is enough to make anyone hungry. Perhaps you fancy something from the plethora of street food vendors? You can find everything from eggs on toast to traditional Korean noodles – you name it and it’s here. And it not only smells mouth-wateringly delicious, but it is cooked right in front of you so you know it’s fresh.

Seoul – street food vendors

Seoul – street food vendors

food vendor, Seoul

Another food vendor, Seoul

The markets start in the late morning and go through to around 10.00pm – and these run across several streets and laneways. While you can always shop in the main Western stores, you have to head to the back streets for the interesting stuff, like these garden ornaments

Garden ornament vendor, Seoul

Garden ornaments for sale, Seoul

There is certainly something for everyone here, and we found Seoul to be a very safe city to walk around in – even at night. There are direct flights from Australia, Europe and USA. Don’t forget to greet people with a friendly “Anyong haseyo” (hello [literally are you at peace?]). And say ‘thank you’ with “Kam samnida” – and always with a smile 🙂 It will go a long way to show that you respect their country and the people. Enjoy!

 

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Singapore’s Colourful markets

You can taste the air, thickly laden with moisture and heat and frangipani, as soon as you step off the plane in Singapore’s Changi airport. It was quite a contrast with the minus 3C we experienced flying out of Canberra’s Winter chill.

Orchids

Singapore is ideally placed to be a global market situated at the cross-roads of the Malacca Straits. Something like 80 percent of the world’s trade passes this spot, making it the ultimate strategic location for trade.

Here you can choose to shop for major brands in air conditioned hyper-malls – in which the act of shopping as entertainment becomes an experience in its own right. But while you could literally spend days in the malls, you would be getting only part of the experience of Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands

Time to venture into the local markets where in many ways you meet the ‘real’ Singapore.

Market stall Singapore

It is hot and humid, and the air in places smells of fish, algae and durian fruit. Durian fruit is an experience all by itself. You encounter it first as a cloying sweet rotting smell, as though some small furry animal had died in a vat of custard – no wonder it is not allowed on buses, planes or inside hotels!

But it is surprising how quickly you become accustomed to it and the smell is soon part of the background, mixed with orchids and jasmine and frangipani and exotic spices.

Rambutan

It is here you begin to see the the true richness of the markets – amazing foods; wonderful flower stalls; and exotic fruits lusciously presented in stacks on the market stalls.

Flower seller

Picture dragon fruit and star fruit and fresh coconuts alongside oranges and tomatoes and many varieties of bananas (not just the plain Cavendish ones we see in supermarkets!).

Dragon fruit

This is where Singapore comes alive for you. Why not strike a bargain for some fresh produce, or just soak up the atmosphere with a friendly smile. Venture out, eat where the locals eat, and encounter the true richness and diversity that Singapore has to offer.

Fish seller