This post explores three major aspects of life in Songdo: farmers markets, shopping malls, and parks. In Songdo, all three can, and likely will, be a part of your day at least once a week. Below I will share some of my favorite things about what Songdo has to offer in these areas.
First, the farmers market. Produce at the big grocery stores in Songdo can be quite pricey, but have no fear! Korea is full of amazing fruit and vegetable markets consisting of dozens of stalls of individual vendors bringing food straight from the farms to the market. Our market is actually a fair distance away (10 stops on the train) in central Incheon (the larger city within which our neighborhood of Songdo exists), but it is worth the trip. In addition to an amazing fruit and vegetable selection at incredible prices (10 bananas for $1? Yes, please!), a trip to the market is a cultural experience in and of itself. The stalls seem to go on for miles, and the vendors are all shouting their deals creating a cacophony of fast-paced transactions as shoppers shout their orders back.
Incheon Bus Terminal, across from the market.
The results of a typical trip (it definitely requires two people to carry home).
After a trip to the farmers market, you may feel like your pockets are a bit heavy with all of the extra money you saved. Have no fear, Korea is also home to some of the best shopping in the world where you can easily spend all of that money you have left over!
As some of you may know, I got my shopping addiction during my first trip to South Korea. Shopping is ubiquitous here. Even the underground subway stations have miles and miles of stores in them. You could spend days getting lost in Seoul’s shopping districts: funky college areas, traditional arts and crafts areas, discount bulk areas, expensive high-fashion areas, tech-specific areas, sports-specific areas, and the list goes on and on. Anything you could possibly ever want you can find. But Seoul does not have the monopoly on shopping. The shopping bug has spread far and wide over the greater capital area, including to Songdo. There are several established shopping areas here, three of the biggest being NC Cube Canal Walk, Triple Street, and the Hyundai Premium Outlets, with new centers opening all the time.
Noodle Box, a casual restaurant at NC Cube serving asian noodles and amazing sweet potato spring rolls!
Triple Street and the Hyundai Premium Outlets, conveniently located right next to each other, are probably my favorite shopping areas in Songdo because they have everything in one place (and are both sparkly and new): shopping, restaurants and cafes, a movie theatre, special events like holiday parades, an arcade, and of course, Daiso! There are also wonderful displays and decorations that change seasonally.
Standing on the rooftop of Triple Street looking down on the shops below and the city in the distance.
Walkway through Triple Street.
Open area with cafes, pop-up snack carts, and seating in the basement of the Hyundai Premium Outlets.
Main path through the Hyundai Premium Outlets.
Always decorated for the season, summer through winter!
The Megabox movie theatre in Triple Street; fanciest move theatre I’ve ever seen!
Now let me tell you about Daiso: it is amazing! This Japanese franchise that appears to be taking over Korea is somewhat like a dollar store in the U.S., except everything is not a dollar just very inexpensive, and the quality is fantastic (I actually want to buy stuff there). We have gotten many of our home necessities from Daiso, including our dishes, kitchen gadgets, cleaning supplies, candles, gardening supplies, bike lights, stationary, school supplies, and so on. I go in and fill my basket full to the brim and spend less than seems possible.
The results of a Daiso trip (and a few extra things as well; stocking up for our upcoming vacation)
The shops here are so interesting. Lots of them have themes (unrelated to clothing), cool decorations, or just crazy items (including many items with nonsensical English phrases). It is fun to just wander around looking at everything. We even found a shop that had a tropical themed section on half of the second floor; no idea why.
Luckily, once you’ve tired yourself out from all of the shopping, there is no shortage of parks in which to relax and contemplate how you will ever pay for everything you just bought! Songdo, being an entirely new, planned community, was designed with parks in mind. Approximately 40% of the land in Songdo is devoted to parks.
So far we have explored three of the major parks in Songdo: Michuol Park, Central Park, and Sunrise Park. Michuol Park (affectionately known as ‘Meet You All’ park due to the way this Korean word sounds to an English-speaker’s ear), is right across the street from our apartment, so we walk and bike through there a lot. Cutting through this park is the fastest path to most locations we visit in Songdo (except the Triple Street area). This park has a large pond filled with various plant life, multiple pagodas and buildings for public use, paths for walking or bike riding, and even a traditional area with kimchi pots in which they ferment the cabbage to make kimchi. It even has a “library,” which is in a large phone booth that looks a bit like the Tardis from Doctor Who. It is always open and you can take books on the honor system. There is also random workout equipment around the park free for anyone to use (this is a feature of most Korean parks, which is absolutely awesome).
Michuol Park, Songdo
View of our apartment complex from the pond in Michuol Park.
Honor-system phone booth library (left) and workout equipment (right).
Another park we visit quite a lot is Central Park, which is modeled after its namesake park in New York City. This is the largest park in Songdo, and is home to several unique features. Central Park is a great place to come and view some of the amazing architecture Songdo has to offer, as many unique buildings line the park. There is also a traditional Korean style hotel in the middle of the park, and there are amazing sculptures throughout. There is also, of course, a very large pond. You can rent paddle boats, clear bottomed canoes, or take a power boat tour through the park. You can also rent bikes to ride through the park.
Central Park, Songdo
Finally, there is Sunrise Park. We only recently discovered this park on an impromptu bike ride. Given that there are so many parks in Songdo, this park is actually only two (large) blocks from our apartment. This park boasts a large rose garden. Having visited in December most of the roses were gone for the season, but you can tell it will be amazing next year. There are also several large sculptures of whales in this park, as well as a pond, of course. There is also a dedicated bike path for riders. This park also contains a small hill, which may be the highest point in Songdo given that Songdo was built on reclaimed land and is quite flat (very atypical for Korean landscape). This hill in Sunrise Park is great for viewing the sunset as we did (or the sunrise; perhaps that is where it got its name).
Sunrise Park, Songdo
Farmers markets, shopping malls, and parks. Just another day of life in Songdo! Those of us from the States know each of these features of life, but here in Korea they each have something a little different and uniquely Korean. Which would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments below!