Rainy Days in Seoul: Taxi rides, Museums and Bibimbap

rainy-days-in-SeoulCredits:  Template from the You are Awesome bloghop

As luck would have it, we woke up to a rainy Seoul on our first full day in South Korea’s capital.

rainy-dayBreakfast at the guesthouse.

What to do? We deferred our plan to walk around Bukchon Hanok Village and instead, per the suggestion of the guesthouse staff, we headed to the National Folk Museum in Samcheong-ro in Jongno-gu.

The hassle-free way to get around on a wet day is by taxi. So driver dropped us off in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The museum is located inside the palace grounds, but we didn’t know that. So imagine us bewildered when he stopped the car and tried to tell us (in Korean and sign language) where to go. And so we got off but couldn’t figure out why. While studying the map (in the rain) to get our bearings, he came back and gestured for us to get back in. He decided to drive us all the way to the gate. A quick left and a U and there we were at the side entrance of the Palace, closest to the museum. He was actually trying to tell us to cross the street, walk a little further, turn left, and we will find it. But he didn’t speak English, and we didn’t understand Korean hence the confusion. He didn’t charge extra.

National-Folk-MuseumThe museum shows the lifestyle and traditions of everyday Koreans at different periods that stretches from prehistoric to the end of the Joseon Dynasty.

traditional-villageThere is also an open-air exhibit that takes you back in time through a replica of a street in a traditional village in late 19th century when a new modern culture was rising in Korea.

grinding-millThere you’ll see a grinding mill, a street car; hanok-style buildings and stores.hanok-style-stores

For lunch, we took a very short taxi ride (the driver scratching his head but couldn’t explain that it is just across the street, practically!) to Insadong. But because it was also drizzling, he obliged. I am amazed at how kind and gracious these people are. Thank you!

Lunch was an entirely satisfying meal of bibimbap and bulgogi at Gogung. I forgot how I adored these well-known dishes, which I first came across about 3 decades ago, when Seoul and I weren’t quite as hip. GogungThis beautiful mixed rice with vegetables, chili paste and eggs called bibimbap kept us full without breaking our pockets. Gogung, known for its Jeonju style bibimbap, is in the basement of Ssamzie-gil, a colorful shopping and cultural complex in Insadong-gil.

insadong-gilThe main street, Insadong-gil

An iconic Korean street, Insadong is a vibrant neighbourhood with streets and narrow alleys lined with antique shops, art galleries, and all kinds of shops, from beauty to crafts.


insadong-stores It is also home to many traditional restaurants and teahouses. Tomorrow a food tour we signed up for will bring us back here. So stay tuned for more of Insadong and its street foods on my next post.


The Art of Bargaining

All these name brands that you of course know are fake but sometimes wonder if they really are.  They look and feel like the real thing.  You make eye contact and hold that shirt and ask, “how much?” then she types a price on a calculator that can’t possibly be right but validates what you already know.  So you pretend disbelief, and show a “you must be kidding” face. She goes, “how much you want?”  Then you offer a price 70% lower than what she asked for.  And then she gives you the same look you just gave her and adds, “you joking!”  You look her straight in the eye, “no”, you say.  Then she brings down the price a bit while you do not budge.  The game goes on for a bit longer; by this time her price is about 30% lower than her original quote.  You walk away and she grabs your arm and asks you once more, “how much you want?” in a more irritated manner, you try to break free and walk away, she follows and continues to ask, “how much you want? enough joking.” you tell her your price, which by now is 20% higher than your first offer, sometimes she will offer to a price a tad higher than yours and you finally compromise and concede.   Everyone’s happy; the vendor will even praise your bargaining skills.   Sometimes though they will walk away grudgingly and call you crazy.  Don’t fret, there are at least 500 stalls (the whole building is reported to have 1,500 stalls) with more or less the same merchandise and if you really like it, you can repeat the same exercise with another vendor.   After a few hours of this, you feel exhausted but happy.  You feel like a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer to reward you for a job well done.

Many coffee shops and restaurant chains on the first floor

My mama always say, “They will never sell you anything at a loss, so don’t feel bad.”  You see she has been going back to the silk market and similar markets in Shanghai and Guangzhou for more than a decade.  She IS the expert when it comes to bargaining with the Chinese.  I take to heart her practical advice and oftentimes end up with a good bargain – that is if my impatience doesn’t get the better of me.  Here are some advices from the expert herself.

  1. Don’t want the item too much.  They are fakes after all.
  2. You will most likely find the same item in the stalls next door.
  3. Always start at least 70% below the asking price.
  4. Do not concede unless it is at least half the asking price.
  5. If you happen to break rule no. 1, then at least concede only if the price is 40% lower than their asking price.
  6. Bargain hard.
  7. Pretend to know what you’re doing, don’t be wishy-washy.
  8. Be prepared for some abuse, some will grab you and drag you back to their store, even if you’re already 3 stores down.

The Silk Market is a 5-story building that offers more than just silk.  There are garments, jackets, jeans, leather goods, shoes, bags, watches, handicrafts, jewelries, toys, you name it.  It opened its doors in 2005 replacing the original outdoor Xiu Shui Market.

Try it… it can be fun.  It’s a game not everyone can play well though but practice makes perfect.   😉

Useful Info:

The Silk Street Market
Chaoyang District, No 8 Xiu Shiu East Road
To get there: take the subway line 1 – Yong Anli Station