Long post ahead!
After hearing so much about Dongdaemun as a serious fashion haven from everyone who’s been to Korea, or maybe from watching all the dramas I do, the group of us trooped down to explore one evening. Actually, we went down two nights in a row because the second night was also the evening we decided to attempt queuing for M Countdown.
All my photos are pretty grainy without flash cos I didn’t adjust the settings properly.
Day 1 of Dongdaemun
Dinner at the food court at the top floor of Doota!
I think I had Japanese curry rice twice during my trip there and once more at Incheon Airport while waiting for our flight home. But I really like it!
Shopping in Doota is pretty expensive since the shops are mostly proper brands. There are a lot of other malls around Dongdaemun which are open 24/7 (or till around 5AM!) so you can get your shopping fix at any time. The only thing is that if you go really late/early anyone can tell you are a tourist and might sell things to you at a pretty high price.
My two male BFFs! Honestly cold like crazy but you can’t really tell.
It was so chilly that we would duck into a mall every now and then just for the heater, then whenever we stepped out it was like freezing all over again.
Us stopping at a Tom & Toms! I think we had coffee and pretzels almost every other day because it was cheap and yummy. The Tom & Toms in Hyehwa was the best because it was huge and had a second floor. But I also think we got carried away and spent a lot of money on coffee and pretzels hahaha. Only on holiday~
An added plus is that all the coffee places have free wifi. In fact, just leave your wifi on around Seoul because you will more or less pick up a signal somewhere. Free wifi! Woohoo.
Pretzel! And iced tea which Chong Aik had most of the time.
I can’t remember exactly, but I think the above two pictures were taken in the subway station itself. Check out the amount of shops inside!! I don’t know why I didn’t buy more shoes in Seoul when they were aplenty. But I guess it would be kind of tough to bring them all back too.
Btw my going-home luggage weight was a grand total of … 26kg!!! That’s the heaviest luggage weight I’ve ever gotten..and I think it’s due to all the CDs I brought back.
Day 2 of Dongdaemun
Our second day at Dongdaemun! We took the last train from Hyehwa at around 12.30PM (?) and we were really worried we were going to miss it because we went to Myeongdong before that and then headed back to our hostel to slack for a pretty long time. So glad trains run pretty late, and even if they don’t, each subway line is pretty long so you can still make a run for the last train if your stop’s somewhere in the middle of the line.
A lot of our photos include shots like these.
When we got out at Dongdaemun station itself, our surroundings were actually pretty unfamiliar because the previous day we had gotten off at Dongdaemun History & Culture Park – which is actually right next to Dongdaemun and within walking distance so it’s not too difficult to figure your way out. And it felt pretty exciting to be out so late because the subway was closing behind us and we knew we were going to stay out the entire night!
It was also then we realised we didn’t have our dinner yet. Our meals were really irregular there – probably also due to our crazy sleeping/waking up habits.
Our paparazzi on-the-street shots because we were all delusional and believed we could be celebrities too. And how funny is Mel flagging a cab when she isn’t even beside the road???
At Cheonggyecheon Stream – which we barely explored. 😦 It’s supposed to run really long and we can see lots of stuff along the way like Changdeokgung Palace and even Insadong street.
Crossed the stream using these huge rocks and all the time I was terrified of dropping my camera because the current was pretty strong and it also looked crazily cold.
Look at his awesome cap! I wish I bought more caps in Seoul but I didn’t see many I liked. 😦
Fried potatoes on a corndog! We bought this for dinner from a streetside stall and we seriously just ate this for dinner because it was so filling. They sell this in Singapore too but I think the ones in Seoul are yummier?
And a lot of the street stall/tent owners we met were from China, and they all usually switched to Mandarin when we couldn’t respond to their Korean. We kept wondering whether we looked really Chinese and were somewhat pleased whenever someone spoke to us in Japanese. Hahah. ESPECIALLY KEITH.
So much for being fashionable when we were wrapped up like dumplings almost the entire trip!
Honestly, I felt pretty disappointed with Dongdaemun because I was kind of expecting a lot more. We visited the wholesale area, but we weren’t allowed to buy anything because clothes there are strictly wholesale. We were even turned away because we said we were just shopping, so I guess the shops there are strictly for businesses to pick up stock. The cheaper shopping malls there are generally like Platinum Mall in Bangkok, lots of similar looking clothes that you have to haggle over expertly for a better price.
Queuing for M Countdown!
As lengthy and precise as I can! To possibly aid in whoever wants to try it out but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are staying in Seoul for…weeks.
After shopping till around 4AM ish, we cabbed down from Dongdaemun to the CJ E&M Centre to queue for M Countdown, which was happening the next day (Thursday) at 5PM.
Prior to this trip, I read as many foreign M Countdown experiences as possible because I desperately wanted to watch a music show live. I mean, go to Seoul and miss it when I watch them online every week? No way I wasn’t going to try. Plus the week we attempted going, they had a really awesome line-up, not only because it was SHINee’s comeback, but 2AM, Miss A, Ailee were also performing. Big Bang too but they weren’t in town, so the performances were pre-recorded.
I was pretty hopeful, because most of the accounts I read were pretty recent (last year) and most of them got in! Unless I’ve only been reading the accounts of people who actually made it. 😦
We had a lot of trouble trying to direct the cab driver to the place because he had zilch idea on where it was. The nearest subway station is the Digital Media City Station on Line 6, but we didn’t want to try since none of us had ever been there. And the cab ride was seriously…one to remember because the driver was speeding like crazy!! I was sitting in front so I felt like I was part of some NASCAR series.
Thankfully, we got there unscathed.
Sooo once we were there, we discovered two different queues directly opposite each other, and after some enquiring, we realised that one was for the main show and one was just a pre-recording for SHINee’s Sherlock comeback stage. We met two other foreign girls, who were nice enough to tell us that joining the main queue would be futile because they usually only let in about 70-75 people and there were already about 100+ people there (YES AT 4AM!!!!). So we joined the SHINee queue after writing our names down on an unofficial list – usually managed by the first people who start queuing, also probably part of the fanclub.
Unflattering proof of us in the queue.
Hordes of people queuing in front of us! If you look opposite you can actually see another line of people – those people were queuing for the main show.
M Countdown is supposedly the easiest show for foreigners to get into, simply because it doesn’t require anything more than your time – but that means it takes up A LOT OF YOUR TIME. We only queued from around 4AM – 8AM but because of the cold + wind, it was really terrible. Plus, we couldn’t sit because our butts would turn to ice (this I know because I returned the week after to queue again with Keith).
The first of many numbers we had written on our wrists! As you can see, reaching at 4AM already put us in the 100s. Subsequently, we had numbers written on our wrists a couple of other times, like when:
1. When the people in charge of the unofficial list did a roll call, usually because a lot of people will give up and leave and we might move down the number list.
2. Earlier in the morning, when we were separated into different queuing lines because some of us were in the fanclub and some of us weren’t.
3. Numbers for the official list by an Mnet staff.
If your name is called and you aren’t there, you are immediately taken off the list. Touche. But still, this means you can’t queue for a friend so it’s pretty fair.
So in the end, we totally didn’t make it in because priority was given to the fanclub or those with a membership on the Melon site. Plus, there was the whole ‘only 70-75 people can go in thing’, even if it’s for a pre-recording. Pretty disappointing, and we just cabbed back to sleep after that.
Didn’t feel too bad though, because after getting back and climbing into bed I checked Twitter and apparently the time we took leaving the place and then reaching Hyehwa was all it took for the pre-recording to be over and done with. So if you think about it, it’s really not worth your time unless you are really free.
But being persistent, Keith and I went down the week after to try once more. We were really hopeful this time because, following the girls’ advice, we went down at around 11PM ish – so much earlier than the week before. We also chose to go down cos the day after was supposed to be a chill day for all of us and we could spend it however we wanted to. I really had no idea whether I was really going to go back again, but thank you Keith for coming down with me anyway! 🙂
We took the subway this time! To Seoul Station, then we changed to the Airport Railroad line which would take us to the Digital Media City Station. This changing thing was a little bit tedious because we actually have to tap out of the station and enter another subway.
We were really afraid we would miss the last train so we just kept running LOL.
We got out by Exit 2, then took a bus opposite the exit. All the buses go to the CJ E&M building (if I remember correctly!) about three stops away. Stops are read out in English too so you won’t miss it! The stop name is the Sangam Digital Media City Public Info Hall.
We met up with the Aimee and Anne, the two girls we met the week before, and the bad news they had for us were that they were there way before s but they were already in the 90s. Keith and I were 120 and 119 respectively. 😦 So you can more or less guess our outcome! But we decided to stay anyway, since it was our last night to try and we took about an hour to get there.
The girls were actually already giving up and going home, but we somehow ended up outside a Family Mart (a common convenience store found all around Seoul!) eating cheap microwaved burgers and hot coffee. We spent about two hours there in the cold talking and literally dancing while a row of cabbie ahjusshis were staring at us – probably hoping we wanted to cab home or something.
After awhile we went back to sit outside the main building again. There were a LOT of Japanese girls sitting around huddled in/sitting on blankets sleeping. We went into the building once to use the toilet and walk around inside cos it was warm but security chases everyone out every couple of minutes. Sucky job LOL.
It was so cold that I had to snap this pic with my iPhone for memory’s sake – Aimee and Anne’s desperate attempt at keeping all of us warm. They actually brought a mini blanket!! And that’s Anne’s jacket. But we were still all freezing under it. I still remember Aimee asking if I wore leggings under my jeans that day and I said I didn’t and she gave me this crazily incredulous look.
“OMG YOU ARE CRAZY GET UNDER THIS NOW!”
The three companions I had for the night ^^
So anyway, when the first roll call happened, a grand total of about 15 people in front of Keith and I disappeared so we were really close to Anne and Aimee. But knew that we were not going to get in anyway so we left soon after.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t get in even after the second round of queuing, but that night was really fun and I’m really glad that I got to meet the people I did. Despite us being almost complete strangers, we somehow pulled through hours of painful queuing in the cold because we kept talking and swapping stories. And thank you Anne and Keith for buying us Kimbab and hot chocolate and soy milk too.
I’m also really, really grateful to my friends for queuing with me the week before too because terrible weather is terrible pffft. Thanks so much you guys 😀 I know that I probably wanted to go there the most out of everyone and you guys were super nice to come with me!
Anyway, it was so cold that for half an hour after we got back to the hostel and were in bed, I COULDN’T FEEL MY BUTT AT ALL. It was just completely ice-cold and just … frozen.
I leave you with that glorious imagery till the next entry! xx
P/S: To sum everything up, while the experience of queuing was pretty memorable, I went there with the expectation of actually getting in – and now I know it’s a lot harder than I thought! All advices are from my own experiences, but others might have different opinions!
For fan-accounts I’ve read, they mentioned that the earliest one needs to be there is around 6AM – and that is totally not true, at least perhaps from now onward. It’s a lot more competitive, probably also with the increase of foreigners (at least 3/4 of the queue), and I believe a lot of locals want to secure their spot by going as early as possible. Don’t queue for pre-recordings because the fanclubs usually get priority, and the recordings are too short to be worth it.
I guess the only sure-fire way of getting in is to be there at like, 6PM on a Wednesday evening and staying there till about 8AM the next morning. LOL. Once you are on the official list for a live show, you can go back and sleep and come back by 4PM.
Dongdaemun Station (동대문역)
Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (동대문역사문화공원역)
Digital Media City Station (디지털미디어시티역)
CJ E&M Centre
Address: 1606 CJ E&M Centre, Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea.