Saturday, 18 October 2014

Boys Over Flowers: Namdaemun's Secret Garden!

I have only been to one flower shop; the one in my Hannam-dong neighborhood from where I bought a couple of plants for my apartment when I moved in for the first time. I actually don't know how to take care of plants, or pets for that matter. Even just to water them I forget; all those plants have since died. It could have been worse if I had pets. Or a garden. Ha-ha-ha!
                (The encircled words mean 'Flower shops 3rd floor)
                      (That's the Korean word for 'flower')

And speaking of plants, a few months ago, my friend Itchay who lives in Manila, asked me to buy her some sesame seeds which she wanted to plant in her garden in the Philippines. She was here in Seoul last year, and bought a few packets. She wanted more. 

So, I looked for sesame seeds at E-Mart and Daisu; they were out of stock. Itchay told me that she actually bought her seeds on a sidewalk at Namdaemun Market. 
                                (A vendor watering his plants)
                              (Plastic grapes of wrath)

So, off to Namdaemun I was, and stumbled upon the Seoul city government's tourist guides, the ones wearing red jackets and walking in pairs in major tourist areas in Seoul. I asked them where I could possibly find a flower shop within the Namdaemun Market area. And instead of pointing me to a shop, they pointed me to a building! A flower market building!
                       (A baby and his mom shopping for flowers)
                   (Roses are red...and yellow and....)

All these years of roaming around the Namdaemun Market, I didn't know it has a flower market. Maybe because all those years of roaming in Namdaemun weren't meant to find flowers, or plants, or seeds. They mostly were to buy K-pop souvenirs and...hotteok! Ha-ha-ha!
                                             (Orange roses!)
From Exit 5 of the Hoehyeon (Namdaemun Market) Station (Line 4), turn right and walk for 110 meters, after which you'll see a building with the 'man-woman toilet sign'. That's the building; it's painted white and has no open windows. It has several entrances from all sides, but there are stairs near the street. Just go up to the next floor, enter the door and voila! Smell the flowers!
                                                 (Real cacti!)
The first time I walked in, I was actually surprised and overwhelmed! There were rows and rows of shops selling fresh flowers of many colors!  During the summer, the whole place was air-conditioned. That's why the building doesn't have open windows. I just moved around, turned around corners, and feasted my eyes with the colors of red, yellow, pink, orange, green and everything else! It felt like I was in some garden. A garden, indeed! Namdaemun Market's secret garden! 

Secret....until today!
                                         (Sunflowers for you!)
On this floor of the building doesn't only have shops selling fresh flowers, they also sell artificial ones. And there were also shops selling plastic fruits, vegetables, bread, figurines, house decors, vases, lamps and all those daintily breakable decor light bulbs! This floor is an 'interior decoration market', too!

For a moment with all the colors and the smell of pollens, I forgot that the only reason I was there was to look for Itchay's sesame seeds. But I eventually found them at one of the shops where an ajumma was selling all kinds of seeds! And after getting the seeds, I continued on my tour of this secret garden, not to smell the flowers, but to take pictures. 
                       (I almost thought they sold fresh bananas 
                        when I saw these plastic fruits)
Although I have discovered that these shops definitely sell cheaper flowers and plants, I don't think I'd be buying a flower pot soon. All of my plants at home died, remember? Maybe, once in a while, when I am in the area to buy some yummy hotteok or a can of Nestle hot chocolate from the underground imported goods alley, I will drop by the flower market just to enjoy the colors. After all, where can you find a huge garden downtown? There may be no trees or fountains on this floor of the World Market Building, but this place is definitely a garden. 

The World Market Building is labeled 'E' on the Namdaemun Market tourist map, and the flower market is open from 3AM and closes at 3PM. They are also closed on Sundays. These flowers and plants must be coming from Korean provinces, and maybe they open very early in the morning so that flower shop vendors all over Seoul can get their flowers and plants from here to sell at their own shops. 
            (I didn't want to go near these crystal decors; 
            I was afraid I might break something. Ha-ha-ha!)

So, if you're looking for varieties of flowers and plants not found at your neighborhood flower shop, you now know which secret garden to head to. This Namdaemun flower market is actually the oldest flower market in Seoul that opened in the 1960s.
          (One of the entrances to the flower market)

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