After the past two very emotional days, today was for fun! We all decided to scrap the original cultural outing for the morning and opted for a day of shopping. Our first stop was Itewon. As one website puts it, Itewon “is considered to be an international borough beckoning travelers and expat residents to its shopping, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. It is home to about 22,000 people, however, between 4000-5000 reportedly visit the commercial district daily. Itaewon is thick with people of various nationalities, as well as large numbers of US military personnel from the nearby Yongsan Garrison. Due to the area's ethnic diversity, Itaewon is home to restaurants serving cuisine from many parts of the world, including India, Thailand, and Mexico, cuisines which are not common in Korea.” We were told that it would be more expensive, but that there were some specialty shops not to be missed.
Our next shopping venture was to NamDaeMun Market, one of Korea's largest wholesale markets covering over 10 acres. It is filled with over 1,000 shops, stalls, retailers, street vendors, and has several department stores nearby. Here you can find clothes, shoes, fabrics, tableware, flowers, vegetables, ginseng products, toys, watches, not to mention souvenirs galore . Walking through this market is an experience in itself and is not for the faint-hearted. Imagine a single traffic lane full of cars and people and store fronts, with many other similar lanes intersecting one another. Add to that the sounds, the smells, the colors, the signs. My words cannot adequately describe the scene. Hopefully, the photos will.
With the wonderful shopping area of Insadong just outside our hotel as well as the many shopping trips to trips to the trendy Myeong-dong market made by the younger set on this Tour, we’ve all been spoiled with the quality and quantity shopping opportunities.
While the market time was fun, I found myself realizing that unlike the earlier picture I had in my head, THIS was the kind of market in which some of our children had been abandoned. At one point during the afternoon, I found myself separated from my two faithful, fellow-parent traveling companions and momentarily felt a rush of panic come over me. While I found my friends immediately, I tried to think of what it could have been like for a 2-, 4-, or 6-year old to be in that same situation, but with no familiar face around again -- ever. Very humbling.
The bus got us back to the hotel about 4:30 where we rested and readied ourselves for the evening dinner cruise on the Han River. The cruise was a relaxing, fun way to end a wonderful day. The food was excellent, the fireworks on the river were lovely, and the company was delightful.
I’ve come to realize that these Korean-born women I am with on this Tour are all part of a very exclusive sorority. The entrance requirements are very stiff, but the sisterhood is powerful and, I believe, long-lasting. I am blessed to be among them and lucky enough to feel like a housemother.
Photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=196940&id=667527023&l=766d3f8492