Monday, April 15, 2013

Myeongdong Shopping District Guide

Guide for Myeongdong Shopping District in Seoul

This Myeongdong shopping district guide is created for anyone who plans to do some serious shopping in one of Seoul's most popular areas.

Myeongdong is also one of the must-visit places in Seoul for any female traveler and there is no doubt that you will walk away as a happy traveler after visiting this place.

Visiting Seoul in February turned out to be an eye-opener for me as it was my inaugural visit to Korea.

Guide for Myeongdong Shopping District

So, what and where is Myeongdong? This is the main shopping and tourism district in Seoul, Korea. Rows and rows of shops are seen where you get almost everything Korea has to offer.

Clothes and Make-Up Products made up almost 80% of the shops here while the remaining consisting of cafes, restaurants, and other nicks and nacks.

Note that Myeongdong is not the place for wholesale shopping and Korean young designers as that place is found in another area called Dongdaemun.

The best part for my Korea trip is that I did not do any research at all, I just packed my bags and headed there blindly. 

Photo of Myeongdong Shopping Street
On a normal day in Myeongdong.
Shopping in Myeongdong

You can find international brand outlets like Uniqlo, Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Forever 21, Bulgari and the ever-popular Louis Vuitton.

However, up-and-coming designer brands are also found here but not on the main streets, more into the lanes which makes you explore.

Overall, this area is particularly popular for young people and tourists as a center for fashion and sight-seeing.

A number of large shopping centers and department stores are in the district including Lotte Department Store, Migliore, Shinsegae Department Store, M Plaza, and Noon Square are all within walking distances. 

Myeongdong Night Shopping
The night shopping scene at Myeongdong in Seoul
In the evenings, the main streets here turns into a massive night market where local vendors will bring out their mobile stalls and set up shop.

You will find an assortment of local Korean snacks and food sold at the Myeongdong Night Market apart from bags, accessories, apparel, gadgets, and shoes.

Personally, I would recommend you visit this place at about 5pm to catch the day and night shopping experience.

Also, when you are there, check out the Underground Shopping areas as the network is amazingly huge!

Subway stations are connected by these underground shopping areas where you can find some good deals at times. In the winter, those who cannot take the cold will most likely be seen down here.

Cosmetics in Myeongdong
Multiple beauty shops are seen at the main shopping street
Buying Cosmetics in Myeongdong

Korean cosmetics brands are the top items that most tourists are buying when they visit Seoul. If you are a woman or man who is into cosmetics, this is definitely your mecca.

Korean brands such as Nature Republic, Missha, The Face Shop and Skin Food are found at every corner of Myeongdong.

When you walk past these outlets, promoters are seen standing outside luring potential customers in with free gifts. Yes, Free Gifts even if you don't buy anything. 

I am serious when I say every corner as when you see a Nature Republic shop while walking, in less than two minutes, you will see another.

There must be at least hundreds of these beauty shops in one area. A tip would be to buy the more internationally known brands as one may never know how your skin would react to the basic Korean brands. 

Face Mask seems to be the top item that people are looking for. Yes, some places sell face masks fro as low as RM1 ($0.30) a pack but those are the lesser-known brands.

The international brand face masks go for about RM2.50 to RM3 per pack. But the Korean know how to package them in packs of 10 pieces which is still way cheaper than back home in Malaysia.

Mens BB Cream Myeongdong
BB Cream for men is a popular product in Myeongdong
BB Cream in Myeongdong

BB Cream is another sought after Korean product and these are retailing for as low as RM50 ($16) while it cost almost double back in Malaysia.

So you are looking at almost 50% savings when you buy Korean Make-Up products here. How do I know all this?

My traveling partner who is also my Chinese editor for Malaysia Asia was in awe when she saw the prices of these beauty products. So, when you're in Myeongdong or anywhere in Seoul, be ready to spend some time on this.

For the foreigner, note that a number of the sales assistants here speak multiple languages like basic English and fluent Mandarin!

It's a competitive business, therefore, you will be easily captured by the free gifts and samples that they give or offer. 

Street Food in Korea
Korean Street Food

Korean Food in Myeongdong

I have to say that eating here was above my expectations for Korean food as I have had it before in Malaysia and it was not on top of my list. Until I had some real authentic Korean food there.

Yes, the famous Korean Barbecue, Bulgogi, Galbi and of course the world-famous Kimchi, all of it tasted really good, especially during the winter.

My style of eating is to pick a restaurant on the first floor which is usually not commercialized. The less English words on the menu, the more authentic the food, well, that's what I believe and I was not wrong.  

For Muslim travelers, I hate to say it but if you are traveling by yourselves without a tour, it would be a little hard to find Halal food in Myeongdong.

However walking outside of the main Myeongdong area, I noticed a couple of Iranian or middle eastern cafes serving kebabs with a halal sign.

There are fast food joints like KFC and McDonald's available but note that McD's serves bacon. So, your safest bet would be KFC. 

Seoul Lotte Young Plaza
Lotte Young Plaza in Myeongdong

What Did I Think of Myeongdong? 

Personally, I found the Myeongdong district to be very busy in the day right until the wee hours of the morning.

Some of the shops here close at about 1.00 am to 2.00 am while the best time to visit here would be in the evenings to enjoy the best of the main street shopping and then the night market.

If you are someone who loves the fast city lifestyle, shopping and people watching, then this is the place to visit.

One thing you should be prepared for is the amount of walking that will be done here. So do pack your best walking shoes for your trip here.

And if you travel during winter, I recommend you do not stinge on purchasing a larger luggage capacity when you book your flights. I will strongly recommend you go for the 25kgs or 30kgs.

Where I stayed in Myeongdong?

For me, I stayed at a common Korean Guesthouse which was 10 steps from the main subway station and about 5 minutes' walk to the main street of Myeongdong.

The guesthouse room was cozy and basic costing about RM140 per night, clean and most importantly safe and convenient.

There are many options that you can choose to make your accommodation bookings, and for me, I love to use Booking.com as there is no payment done when booking.

There are also vacation rental services offered for Seoul and you can also check those websites out for some bargains.

How I Traveled to Seoul, Korea? 

For those looking for a budget trip to Korea, there are many choices you can choose from. If you are in Malaysia, you have AirAsia X flights that fly directly into Seoul.

The flight takes about seven hours one way and there is a Quiet Zone on AirAsia X where kids under 12 are not allowed in this area of the aircraft.

Overall, AirAsia X has ongoing promotions for flights to Seoul and even Jeju, and it is best to sign up as a Big Member where you will get priority bookings for promotions before others.

Conclusion

For anyone who is planning to visit Seoul and the Myeongdong area, I will recommend at least spending a minimum of four or five days here.

This is being modest, especially if you are traveling with a loved one. But if you are a solo traveler, four nights would be good enough.

In total, I spent five days exploring Seoul which took me to Namsan Hill, Changgyeonggung Palace, Dongdaemun, Nandaemun, the ever famous Gangnam area and of course the Myeongdong shopping district.

3 comments:

Diana Diane Teo said...

Throughout my trip to South Korea back in year 2011, I also stayed nearby Myeongdong as this district mostly recommended by most people and no regret, Myeongdong turns out to be my favourite place to visit in Seoul. I did went and witnessed myself the night market and love it too. Love to visit South Korea again. Nice post for this.

David Jr said...

Diana, I think this place is very central and you made the right choice. I can totally understand why you like Myeongdong so much. It's crazy for women :)

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