Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dongdaemun Fabric Market: From Lost Spaniards To My Favorite Arroz Valenciana

Last November, outside Jegi-dong Station, I stopped to help two finely dressed foreigners, a man and a woman, who got lost. I was on my way home when, from afar, I saw them reading their smartphones and looking up to the buildings around them. It was obvious they were trying to figure out their exact location. So, when I got to them, I asked,"You need help?"

Yes, they did. 

They were looking for the Dongdaemun fabric market, which was three subway stations away. So, I guided them down to the station and pointed them towards Dongdaemun. They told me they were from Barcelona, Spain, and had a meeting in the Jegi-dong area. They must have been buyers from a Spanish fashion house trying to source new fabrics for their collection.

Of course, during our encounter, I introduced myself en español and told them I visited their city a year ago. They must have been initially surprised that this random 'korean' spoke Spanish. Ja-ja-ja!

(The buildings of the fabric market on the Jongno side. The encircled spot is the information booth manned by a lady who speaks English)

A few days after that, I was riding a bus that passed by the Dongdaemun fabric market, and thought of the two Spaniards. I wondered whether they found the kind of materials they needed. And since I was heading home to the Philippines in a few weeks' time for the Christmas holidays, I decided to visit the fabric market myself and look for Christmas fabrics for our dinner table!

(If you're into retro-fashion, this shop's just for you!)

The Dongdaemun fabric market is huge! With a few buildings having six floors selling fabrics, materials, accessories and everything you need to make an expensive-looking gown, or a simple pajama, your head might probably spin from the overwhelming display of colors, fabric designs, and of course, crowds of customers!

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to jump from one building to another just to find my Christmas fabrics. On the second floor, just after I turned around from an elevator ride, I immediately found a shop selling fabrics with interesting designs! Including Christmas designs!

Since I had the dimensions of our dinner tables at home, I bought three designs: two designs sold for KRW5,000 per yard, and the other, which was of a thicker fabric, sold for KRW6,000 per yard. They even have shops where you can have you hanbok tailored just for you.

And when I got home to the Philippines, my mom called her local seamstress and asked her to sew the fabrics in time for our Christmas noche buena!

And when Christmas day came, we used two Christmas fabrics for our noche buena tables. 

That day, as la arroz valenciana, a Spanish dish, sat on our table, I wondered whether I was meant to stumble upon the two Spaniards last month, who lost their way in finding the fabric market, which, in turn, gave me the idea to visit the market and look for Christmas designs for our noche buena table cloth, which then added a festive look to our table where our favorite arroz valenciana, a dish from Spain, sat and ready to be enjoyed.

              (The fabric market buildings as seen 
               from the Cheonggyecheon side)

As I write this, the two Spaniards I met are probably at home, too, in Spain, celebrating their felices pascuas. When we parted that day inside the Jegi-dong Station, they thanked me for the help. I should have thanked them, too, as that encounter gave me an idea. 

So, to those two Spaniards, to the shop owners at the Dongdaemun fabric market, and to everyone...

¡Prospero año nuevo! Happy new year!

          (The other fabric provides a background 
           for the yummy pistachio sans rival)

       (The Christmas fabric with poinsettia design 
             costing KRW5,000 per yard and my 
                      favorite arroz valenciana)

                               *  *  *  *  *

The Dongdaemun fabric market is accessible from Exit 8 of Dongdaemun Station of Line 1 and Line 4 (not to be confused with Dongdaemun Culture and History Park Station).

From Exit 8, follow the sidewalk parallel to the stream. The market is next to JW Marriott Hotel; the market includes Building A, B, C, and D. Yes, I know. It's overwhelmingly huge!  

Have fun shopping!

Here's the fabric market's website:


  1. I want to visit Dongdaemun Fabric Market. Maybe you can arrange a short tour there? :D

    1. Sure. Maybe in spring time when they probably will feature more bright prints.