I Love Insa-dong!

Shopping is one of my specialties, and Insa-dong with its pleasant mix of quaint antique shops, tourist stalls and artsy boutiques has oft proved to be among my favorite destinations in Seoul. This neighborhood is always a surprise, with a here-today-gone-tomorrow type of vibe. In fact, on my last visit to Insa-dong in October of last year, I spied a tiny store purveying handmade wire and shell jewelry. I snapped up a ring, which quickly became my favorite accessory. I loved the ring so much that I wanted to go back this time and buy myself a spare after a close call when I almost lost it at the Shaghai airport! But alas, the tiny shop was nowhere to be found, having disappeared seemingly into the mist.

Fortunately there were many other shops to distract me, and I roamed (despite the typhoon) to my heart’s content. After carefully surveying the choices, two new destinations have clearly arisen to the top of my Insa-dong must-shop list.

1. Gounjae Hand Craft – This rustic store selling handmade soaps, lotions and bath products draws you in before you even reach the door. A tumble of exquisite scents flavors the air, and you’ll have a terrible time deciding between rose and jasmine, cedar and eucalyptus, etc., etc., etc. Particularly charming are the collection of soaps in the shape of traditional Korean masks–perfect souvenirs to take to the peeps back home. Prices are reasonable, the shopkeepers are as helpful as can be and the packaging is simply too-cute to pass up. Love! Web: http://www.gounjae.com.

2. Ee Gee – Like a tiny treasure chest, Ee Gee sells glimmering necklaces, cute-as-a-button headbands and barrettes, funky pins and earrings ranging from dainty to statement-making–all from the shelves of the shoebox-sized shop. Every time I wander by, this place catches my eye with some shiny new bauble. This time, I was particularly fond of the pocket watch necklaces and the delicate beaded earrings. While prices can be steep for certain items, others are inexpensive and will remind you of that day you spent wandering the enchanted streets of Insa-dong. Who doesn’t love a purchase with a fabulous memory attached? Phone: 010-2344-2775.

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