Do-it-yourself in Dongdaemun markets

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Do-it-yourself in Dongdaemun markets

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Hanbok fabrics are piled high in the Fabric Market at the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and Shopping Town. By Fielding Hong

Most people know Dongdaemun as the pulsing, round-the-clock fashion and shopping mecca that never sleeps. Clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories - you name it, you can find it in Dongdaemun. Huge shopping complexes like Migliore and Doota are packed wall-to-wall, nine stories high, with stalls of vendors selling any and all of your fashion needs. And the buildings are open until the wee hours of the morning for those occasions when you need a new top at 3 a.m.

But what many may not know about Dongdaemun is that its many markets offer more than your everyday shopping experience. In the alleys and areas around the main shopping drag, smaller markets or shopping clusters offer some of the city’s most unique, one-stop shopping destinations for all of your hobby supplies.

Since the shopping areas are within easy walking distance of each other, you could easily spend a day wandering through them, choosing your next do-it-yourself hobby.



Bangsan Baker’s Market

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Bakers can find everything from bittersweet chocolate to nuts in Bangsan Baker’s Market.

For those of you who like to make your own homemade confections and goodies, you were probably disappointed the first time you went to your local grocery store or even large supermarket and walked down the baking supplies aisle. If there are any at all, the supplies are few and often limited to standard flour, sugar, step-by-step cookie mix boxes, miniature cake pans and tiny pouches of uninspiring chocolate chips and sprinkles. No vanilla, no coconut, no bricks of bittersweet baker’s chocolate, none of the stuff that gives a baker’s sweets their own personal touch.

Enter Bangsan Baker’s Market. The market - just a street really - is in a hidden corner of the larger Bangsan Market and contains everything you need to bake just about anything you can imagine. The stores sell many ingredients that are hard to find in other places, such as dried fruits, assortments of nuts, molasses and fruit glazes, rye and wheat flour, along with various purees and extracts. You can find all of the other baking accoutrements you need for baking cookies, cakes, breads, muffins, brownies, tarts, tortes and pies. Baking equipment and tools are sold here, too, such as electric mixers (for serious bakers, you can even find KitchenAid mixers), cookie cutters, cake pans and baking utensils that aren’t commonly found in other kitchen supply stores or markets. Finally, the stores also offer the cutest decorative boxes, cellophane, ribbons and stickers so that you can wrap up your treats to look as sweet as they taste when you share them with your family or friends.

Not only is the variety of baking products vast, the prices are competitive, even for common ingredients such as sugar, flour and butter. As with most markets in Korea, vendors are sometimes willing to negotiate, especially if you are buying large quantities or are purchasing some more expensive items.

There are a couple of ways to get to Bangsan Baker’s Market. From Jongno 5-ga Station (line No. 1), go out exit 7 and cross over the Cheonggye Stream. From there, you’ll see the arch for the Bangsan Market entrance. From Euljiro 4-ga Station (line No. 2 or 5), go out exit 4 and turn right at the first intersection. From there, you’ll walk until you see the sign for Bangsan Market and turn right into the market, where you’ll find 20 to 30 baking supplies shops clustered together.

For those of you who are too busy to visit the market, you can shop for your baking needs online and have your order delivered to your house for a small delivery fee (orders over a certain amount typically get free delivery). Visit some of the Web sites www.bakeking.co.kr, www.bakingmall.com and www.happybaking.com (Korean only).

One popular store, Bread Garden, with locations in Bangsan, Hongdae, Gangnam and the Express Bus Terminal, also offers baking classes. For more information, visit their Web site www.breadgarden.co.kr (Korean only).



Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and Shopping Town Fabric Market

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For those of you who enjoy making your own outfits instead of shopping off-the-rack, the four buildings of the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and Shopping Town house one of the most dizzying arrays of fabrics, buttons, zippers, lace, silks, threads and sewing machines that you’ve likely ever seen. Amateur and professional clothing designers alike shop at this fabrics market for the newest Asian trends in textiles and fabrics.

Not just for seamstresses, this market also has materials for those who like to knit, crochet and try their hand at other handicrafts. There are also vendors selling home decorations such as curtains, plates and other home furnishings. The buildings, each six and seven stories, can be hard to navigate, especially if you’re not there to browse but to find one or two specific things. There is a general order to the chaos, but of course none of the floor schemes are set in stone.

According to the Visit Korea Web site, the buildings contain over 5,000 vendors.

Vendors typically sell fabrics in large quantities so be ready for a little bit of grumbling if you’re requesting only small swatches at a time. Fabric vendors may be willing to negotiate, especially if you’re buying fabrics or other materials in bulk, but the general consensus is that those selling hanbok fabrics and silks are less likely to waver on their prices.

For knitters and crocheters, yarns and needles are also available, but some vendors may only want to sell yarn balls in packs, rather than individually. It may be helpful to go with a friend who is also buying, in order to get breaks in prices or share bulk materials. Of course, becoming a regular customer is also helpful in getting discounts in the future, so if you do find a particular stall that you like, be sure to write down the stall number so you can find your vendor again. Many of the vendors sell fabrics unique to their stalls only, so if you have the time, you can spend a long afternoon there perusing all of the fabrics.

To get to Dongdaemun Fabric Market, go to Dongdaemun Station (line No. 1 or 4), and go out exit 9. Dongdaemun Shopping Town is the large, white building on the left side.

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Cheonggye 7-ga Exotic Pet Store Row

Most of us have probably already heard of Chungmuro’s Pet Street, which houses pet shop after pet shop of adorable puppies and kittens. But for those who like their pets with a little less fur, the pet store row in Dongdaemun should be more up your alley. Exotic Pet Store Row, located near the Cheonggye Stream in Dongdaemun, has plenty of shops that specialize in animals that are beyond your typical house pets. Parakeets, cockatiels, lizards, snakes and piranhas are just among a few of the rare pets that you can find on this unusual block. In addition to the pets themselves, the stores also stock all of the supplies that you need to raise the pets in your home, such as food, aquariums and cages. Less exotic pets are also sold here, including fish, hamsters and other smaller pets that are typically easier to raise than dogs or cats.

To get to Exotic Pet Store Row, go to Dongdaemun Station (line No. 1 or 4), and go out exit 7. Walk along the Cheonggye Stream until you see the Dongdaemun Pyeonghwa Fashion Town building. Exotic Pet Store Row is on the opposite side.



Dongdaemun Sporting Goods Street

Finally, for those of you with a more active lifestyle, you can find all the athletic equipment you desire at Dongdaemun Sporting Goods Street.

The area was traditionally called Dongdaemun Stadium because the area was once home to Dongdaemun Stadium, which opened in 1926 and was the major sports facility in the city until the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. It has since been demolished to make way for the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.

Although the stadium is no longer there, the sporting goods stores that cropped up around the area have remained in business and can cater to all of your sports equipment needs.

You can find around a hundred stores hawking your typical fare of baseball, basketball, football and taekwondo equipment and uniforms, as well as stores that sell tennis, badminton, bowling, golf and general exercise equipment. For newcomers to sports, shop owners typically have a lot of knowledge about the best equipment and products to jump-start your hobby.

To get to the Sporting Goods Street, go to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station (line No. 2, 4, or 5), and go out exit 4.


By Shannon Heit Contributing writer [shannon.sgc@gmail.com]
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