Ssamji Gil in Insadong, Seoul
This is my fourth time visiting Insadong since the first time I went with Mom and Emi when my brother got married about 9 years ago. Somehow Insadong always brings me some sort of nostalgia that actually I really don’t know about that well… But I secretly love that vague and warm nostalgia about my own fantasy of what old Seoul would have been. I was born in early 70’s so I wasn’t there to live the middle of all but I would have loved it and I don’t know why, but I think I am right about guessing Insadong today somehow carries that old charm of 70’s Seoul. I just feel it. I really like the fact that good portion of Insadong does not allow any cars around. It’s laid back luxury you can have in the middle of busy Seoul. Or in any metropolitan city. It’s relaxing… Insadong then (1392-1910) was dominated by Art school, ” Dowhawon”, is still adorned by many writers, artists and craftsmen. It’s bit bohemian and very traditional despite how commercial it could be yet I am Sssooo thankful that Seoul really is doing a great job to reserve such an area like this till today keeping much character and authenticity. How do you know the new is good if you don’t know the old. I believe. Then a few years ago, Ssamji Gil has opened up in Isandong. Ssmjigil is somewhat a mall with 70 shops of small businesses. Hand made soaps, paper shop, a little boutiques sell their one of kind things… And I believe this small mall became a catalyst for the revitalization of Insadong. Unlike other common malls, Ssamjigil sets back allowing the complex to blend into the street-scape. It was quite a generous and considerate decision from the investor and developer point of view. You know how it can easily become. High-rises of million shops selling whatever that is. More money and higher density. But Ssamji Gil is bit different. It’s a quite low rise structure made out of concrete, metal, glass and wood definitely feeling modern yet warm and approachable by having this open layout using ramp style passage ways (think Guggenheim Museum in NYC but done in rectangular shape rather circular line being able to to house shops easily on the linear lines). The overall style of Ssamji Gil is easy and airy with naive looking signage, kind of business and an open court yard. It’s a relatively new mall in this old area yet again it’s modern enough to feel relevant to today’s society. Ssamji Gil has set a perfect sort of new direction for good old Insadong.
Ssamji Gil Court Yard.
A few of actual stair cases in the mall. A stair way to get to underground level where there are small Korean restaurants and cafes.
Visitors’ scribbles on the washed concrete wall. It looks quite interesting. Below, cute mural of an elevator area.
A miniature artist shop. These low sitting tables full of yummy traditional Korean food and snack with Soju are 2/3 of size of your palm. Cute, ha?
Then, cousin Yoonhee and I stopped by at this traditional Korean Accessory shop, Gabe. Cute window captures our eyes. Below, 2 little hats and a pair of baby shoes.
I ended up getting one of “Norigae”, a tasseled pendant sort of women’s accessories for traditional Korean dresses. They are all hand made and depends on ow elaborate the design is and materials are, the prices starts from $30.00 up to couple grands. Norigae ws widely used for women in royal family and “Ghi Seng”, the geisha of Korea. Norigae was attached to “Gorum”, a long tie for the traditional Korean outfit, “HanBok”’s shirt.
Hanbok’s shirt, “jugori” and Noriae.
Colorful paper boxes for ” Norigae”. I picked out the top one. Hot pink with black trim.
The shop, Gabe carries all sort of little accessories as these thimbles as well as small pillows for needles, hairpins, textiles and more…
Another thing that really caught my eyes were this hair accessories. You know Emiliano does hair, so whenever I see interesting thing that related to hair styling or tools, I like to take a look at them. ( and it was a little for Emi ). The hairpiece is called ” Tzchokmuri” a braided hair and the main big hair pin that is used to secure the braid to the head is called ” Binnye”.
A fabulous Binnye, the hairpin. It comes all different sizes, designs, materials and all ( Gold, silver, white gold….)
More Binnye and other hair accessories.
A simple hair do here. Just one Binnye and Tzchomuri. It’s quite beautiful.
After quite a time we spent at Gabe, Yoonhee and I headed up to the top floor where there is a lovely passage way with a wooden deck: a garden meets pedestrian board walk like vibe. It’s really really lovely here. I can’t imagine how it would be during Spring and Summer with bloomed flowers and lush green leaves.. and of course more cafes to visit there…
Leaving Ssamji Gil… No that’s not me standing there…!
I just can’t get enough of Korean street food even though most of time i pass it. This is Hottuck, a sort of cryspy pancake that is fried on a hot griddle with sweet syrup inside. Sweet, hot and crispy! yoonhee and I did not pass it this time. It was delicious!
Crispy Sweet Hottuck!
A herb shop in Insadong.
Insadong is also the best bet to taste varieties of Korean Teas. There are many small and big scaled beautiful traditional tea houses with galleries and beautiful court yards. Kyungin Gallery. is one of many well known Tea Houses where also has a galley And It is my favorite tea house in Insadong. The Insadong street stretches about 700m offering fun and rich opportunities to taste traditional culture and art of Korea. And it is my little nostalgia of old Seoul. Go visit and enjoy the laid back old fun and also the new fun of Ssamji gil!