One of the greatest pleasures in life are open air markets. Whether its a flea market or a farmers market experience has told me that some of the best things and be found in markets. I'll swear that one of the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had came from this older hippy lady's stall at a farmers market in St. Augustine. I simply adore open air markets. Which is why it is strange for me to have delayed visiting these kind of markets here in Korea. I had all the usual excuses; I was busy, it's too far away, I'm broke, blah, blah, blah it's a familiar routine. Last week though I finally had an opportunity/no excuses. It started with this invitation.
One of the first things people do when you first land is hook you up with the Facebook page for foreigners in your area. On these pages people post anything from furniture for sale to reliable English speaking doctors. This was an event that was posted for our viewing pleasure. Can anyone guess what the key operating word in this advertisement was? That's right FREE!!! I love freebies especially when they're nice ones. Everything on the list of activities was something that I felt I would enjoy so... why not? At this point I had been hold up in my apartment for an unhealthy amount of time so any excuse to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on my face was a good one. With this in mind I signed up and prepared to wholly enjoy myself.
An important thing to know about Korea. If it can be made cute, it will be; and everything has a mascot (including the police). When I arrived at our meeting place this is what greeted me.
One of the mascots of Nambu Market place. I'll admit this surprised me. I wasn't expecting this method of advertising. I'm not entirely certain but I think it's supposed to be some sort of lizard. Either way it was cute So I did my duty and took a picture. When everyone arrived we went to our first stop. The Hanbok shop.
This is a hanbok for women. It came with four pieces. There is a hoop underneath and another long sleeved jacket under the first one. The blue skirt wraps around my chest and is tied in the back with ribbons. The jacket ties in the front. Honestly this is probably one of the most straight forward traditional articles of clothing I've ever tried. I was actually quite comfortable. As a bonus the lady dressing me gave me a fur scarf. (I guess I looked cold)
As far as I could tell the men's Hanbok was a long robe fastened over matching pants. They also accessorized with hats befitting their station. (Two kings and a guard.)
Properly attired we set off on our exploration of Jeonju's Nambu market. We had the privilege of getting a behind the scenes tour before the nightlife took over. Korea is facing a problem that most modern countries have: a lack of interest in traditional values. Time is a heartless witch and many things simply get left behind and forgotten. The people of Nambu market refuse to get left in the dust though and instead have revived interest in the area and made it popular with the younger generations. The secret? Young people are running the show.
During our tour through the underground of Nambu market (which gave me the feeling of being behind the scenes at Disney World) we met several people of the artistic persuasion. If you have spent any time in Korea I'm sure you have noticed the abundance of murals adorning walls everywhere. We met one young lady who creates these.
A work in progress.
We also met a woman who makes Hanbok; and across the way from her was the studio of some young designers who uses vegetables as inspiration for their clothing.
After the behind the scenes tour we were treated to tteokguk which is rice cake soup. I'm a fan of the stuff. It has a very mild flavor so people who don't fish or spicy things would probably enjoy it. The rice cakes are very chewy but easy to swallow though some people might be put off by the texture. It's usually garnished with dried seaweed like shown in the picture. The yellow stuff is pickled radish. As far as I can tell pickled radish is the equivalent to celery sticks in the United States. If you order pizza, pickled radish comes with it. Chicken wings? Pickled radish. It's right up there with Kimchi.