- The Gwangjang Marketplace (광장시장).
This place is amazing. Over 5,000 stores are in the market selling anything from sleeping bags to silks to tailors fitting traditions Korean hanboks. But the first thing we saw was the food. They look like the familiar snack stalls that you see all over the streets in Seoul and other parts of the country but they were just everywhere. Rows and rows of benches were lined with people eating and ordering.
The dishes consist of pig head meat, pig knee, chow mein, spiced rice cakes (떡볶이, dduk-bok-ee), soon-dae (순데), bibim-bab (비빔밥, mixed rice dishes), seafood dishes, and a host of others that I just didn’t see on my visit there. Everywhere you looked, people were sitting on benches chowing down on pretty much the same thing that the people next to them were chowing down on. In fact, it looked a lot like the marketplace scene that you see in “Spirited Away” except this place was mostly run by middle-aged women instead of strange animal ghost spirits.
While the bakery marketplace was mostly emptied out after 5, the 광장시장 was completely packed. Almost every table had customers seated and it just got thicker as you got further in. My date and I made our way to the inner circle of tables just in time for a couple to get up and leave so that we could take their seats. The soon-dae was as thick as my arm, the dduk-bok-ee wasn’t as spicy as I had feared and the meat from the broiled pig head was delicious. It was hard to eat and stare at the busy marketplace around us but we made do as people were everywhere. Every table had steam lifting off of it making the marketplace look like one entirely large kitchen (which it sort of was).
After a year spent visiting modern malls (Technomart, Times Square, COEX), this place was a welcome change and it is definitely a place I’m going to revisit when friends come to Korea.