Insadong, Seoul, Korea, Sketch and Run, travel, travel photography You wouldn't expect a street that is ostensibly one of the 'traditional' areas of Seoul to be also fusing the modern and the traditional but if the brightly lit and pastel pink Etude House branch next to your stereotypical ajumma-run market stall is anything to go by, Insa-dong doesn't have a problem with it and neither does Samcheong-dong.


One thing I've encountered on my travels is the 'souvenir dilemma', which usually happens in any 'traditional' street of any city.

It's easy to buy into the tourist trap of feeling like your souvenirs must feature a brightly coloured hanbok or must be a ceramic cup with a picture of a tree on it in order to be a 'true' souvenir where, in fact, you're pretty much buying into the stereotype of that culture, pre-packaged in cheap plastic packs of eight keyrings and fridge magnets as a courtesy apology to friends for having a good time without them.

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Of course, these souvenirs have a certain kitschy charm to them that I will absolutely be quick to appreciate but if you're genuine about buying memorable souvenirs, I don't see the logic in holding to the belief. A mask pack for a friend who's been wanting something from Missha is often a more considerate gift than a 50000 won fan.

The key is to buy sparingly, looking for rarer, more unique things that really show you have been there to physically hunt through the mounds of merchandise with your gift-receivee in mind. Sometimes you need to stray from the main street full of tourist bait and into tiny alley shops that may have that one quirky postcard or unusual trinket. You may pay a little more (or maybe not) but your gift will be memorable. Otherwise, be discerning about quality - of the print, the postcard, the paper. Too garishly colourful? Too flimsy-looking? Can you see the souvenir being proudly displayed in a home or lying at the bottom of a drawer for the next 5 years? Resist getting them. If you have the ability to do so, food - though more temporary - works a lot better, in my opinion. There's nothing like seeing the appreciative faces when they bite down into something delicious.

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Insadong, Seoul, Korea, Sketch and Run, travel, travel photography, gyeongbokgong

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Insadong connects to Gyeongbokgong Palace in the 'central' Seoul area via a main road, which then connects to Samcheong-dong and Bukchon Hanok Village. If Cissy and I could basically walk around entire palace searching for a particular cafe when our portable Wifi ran out of battery, it's definitely a doable walking tour if that's your thing. Whether you want to do it in -5C temps depends on your cold tolerance.

Samcheong-dong features a surprising array of modern cafes and clothing boutiques, though the facades of many buildings remain that of traditional houses. There is no shortage of clean-lined modern buildings and trendy cafes but there's something in the trees lining the streets, the relatively short buildings and the streetlamp designs that distinguishes this place from the rest of Seoul.