Where is everyone going in Seoul to enjoy the hot weather these days? One popular destination is the Han River and in particular the Seoul Bamdokkaeibi Night Market in Yeouido. It’s on every Friday and Saturday evening from 6pm until 11pm and runs until the end of October. There’s some information here on the official website or their Facebook page. We popped down there last weekend for a look around.
It’s the biggest night market in Korea with food from around the world, crafts for sale, and various musical performances. The emblem of the market is the 도깨비 dokkaebi which is a kind of goblin that plays tricks on people at night. He can perform magic and sorcery with the big club that he carries around with him. (see picture below). Even during the week the river is busy in the evenings with couples out on a date, cyclists, and families relaxing in tents! But at the weekend things get really hectic.
The view of Yeouido from the river looks impressive in the evenings with all the surrounding office buildings lit up. By the way can you see the lights in the building above in the shape of G5? This is the LG office and they are highlighting their new G5 smartphone which just came out. It’s a great bit of cheap advertising, if fairly subtle – I didn’t notice the significance of the lights but then I’m not a very techy person and I don’t follow smartphone trends. Mr. Kim had to point it out to me …..
On average there are 20,000 people coming to the Yeouido night market per day. Many people arrive earlier in the day, pitch their tents to get some cover from the sun, and spend the day relaxing by the river, playing in the water features, and ordering chicken from the local delivery services. But there are lots of kids and things can get confusing in the crowds. Within five minutes of arriving we heard two announcements over the loud speakers trying to find the parents of a crying 3 year old looking for his mum and a lost 7 year old.
There’s a row of food trucks along one side and a row of craft stalls along the other. This all gets put away (or driven away) after the market closes. But from 6 pm everything gets going. The main attraction seems to be the food. It’s advertised as food from around the world and there are over 30 food vans. This snapshot below was taken from the official website. Yes, lots of the food looks tempting ….
…but the queues? Oh my. We were there around 9pm and the queues for some of the food trucks must have been at least 50 metres long if not longer! The smell from the gopizza truck was making me hungry even though we had already had dinner. But I’m too grumpy and impatient to wait in any sort of line for food. 😕
If you don’t mind waiting there’s plenty to choose from. Belgian waffles, Japanese okonomi yaki, fusion tokbokki, deep fried prawns Korean style, various grilled sandwiches and hotdogs and of course a coffee stall selling the usual range of beverages from americano to caramel macchiato.
The grilled chicken-on-a-stick stall was heaving. So I contented myself with marvelling at the length of the queue and aftermath of empty paper plates and sticks. All these fancy foods are competition for the foods stalls that are along the river the rest of the year. There was no one waiting at the bondegi silk worm stall.
The writer in this article (Korean) also wanted to try some food and bravely joined a queue. It took 2 hours to get to the front of the line! (Yes, I said 2 HOURS) And according to one of the staff members running a food truck, on a Saturday customers can wait up to 4.5 hours! (I know. That’s what I said.) So although there are 30 food trucks, this really isn’t enough. Towards the end of the evening a lot of the stalls start selling out too, even though there are still plenty of hungry punters around.
Opposite the food trucks are the tents where you can buys various products, many handmade. There are several stalls selling jewellery and accessories involving leather and beads aimed, I’m guessing, at the high percentage of happy-go-lucky loved-up young couples out enjoying the ambience. As opposed to miserable old couples like us bickering about where to go and complaining about the crowds. I did stop to look at some rings made from foreign coins, mainly American and Japanese. (it’s illegal to use Korean coins) Didn’t buy anything though.
There are nicknacks for the house on sale and cute stuff like hand painted ceramic cups and saucers, ceramic bowls with faces, scented candles, handmade soap, scented air fragrance, tiny dolls in tiny glass bottles. There were some rather nice handmade chopping boards and wall decorations.
For the performances there are three venues by the river – the main stage, the ‘mini’ stage, and the ‘busking park’ (below). According to the official website there are various performances with audience participation including magic tricks and juggling on the mini stage from 6:30pm to 7pm, music performances on the main stage between 8 and 8:30pm, and indie bands and singers on the busking park between 9:00pm and 9:30pm and then between 10:00 pm and 10:30pm
Night markets are growing in popularity and there are now 19 night markets in total around the country. I think it’s interesting to go and have a look. We satisfied our curiosity, took a few snaps, sat by the river and had a can of beer, and then came home. The closest subway station to the night market is 여의나루 Yeouinaru on line number 5, exit 2.