Korea Diary | Getting New Specs (Day 48)I was really excited for the day's plans. It was something I had wanted to do the moment I landed and got situated in Seoul. I read somewhere on the interwebs about the inexpensive glasses available from Namdaemun and my goal was set, prescription sunglasses shall be mine at last!
A late night meant most of us ended up waking up around noon. After grabbing a quick meal in Edae, our group took the subway to Namdaemun Market to scout for some new specs.
Since Bestie C wasn't too interested in glasses shopping with me, I was really excited to hear that our Californian friends were. I was most afraid of my haggling skills and welcomed the extra support of going with a group of people. It was definitely reassuring to know that those friends had superior price negotiating tactics than me.
I probably mentioned it in one of my first Korea Diary posts, but Namdaemun Market had way too many eyeglass shops to choose from. What originally began as going into one to just price gauge became staying at one to price haggle. Our first and only visit ended up at Good Morning Eyeglass 굿모닝 안경원. It was one of the bigger places that could accommodate our large group.
One side of their store housed mainly the designer brands like the Ray Bans, Chanel, etc. The other side had the Korean brands, which were, of course, the more affordable options. Regular clear glasses from the domestic Korean brands could cost around ₩20,000. The price went up with additional things such as the thickness of the lens. Sunglasses frames were also priced a little higher as well.
If my eyesight wasn't as terrible and I was a stronger haggler, perhaps I could have gotten a pair of new specs for less than ₩20,000. Alas, that's not me. I was prepared to pay more for the thinnest lenses possible. These things practically live on my face so that I am able to navigate the world. I needed them to feel as if they weren't there. To no surprise, the prices the salesman gave was much higher for my requests. It wasn't as expensive as what it would cost back in NYC but a big difference from a no-frills version in Seoul.
(For comparison, I had my eyes checked before going to Korea and was quoted for a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses with thinner lenses and I believe anti-scratch. A sales person at a popular eyeglass chain in NYC told me it would cost $600+ for the sunglasses. The typical cost of my previous glasses with thinner lenses and anti-scratch was around $400-500.)
It took me a very long time to finally decide the frames that I wanted to buy. There were just so many choices to choose from. While I went in knowing 100% that I was going to walk out with a pair of sunglasses, I also tacked on a pair of normal glasses as well. Being in an Asian eyeglass shop meant most of the frames had nose support that suited small Asian nose bridges. This was an opportunity too good to pass up on. Plus, I thought it would help with the price haggling. Saying 2 for $xxx is easier than going 1 for $xxx.
If my memory is correct, I think the salesman originally told me that the prices of both frames together would be around ₩500,000. If I was back at home, this would have been a great deal. But I was hoping to get a steal.
I made the "ehh I don't know" and "it still seems pretty pricey" faces while staring at my choices.
Mr. Sales saw and shot back with a lower price saying that it was because I was buying two & he was giving a special discount.
Again, I gave him my unsure face. Until some time later he asked me how much I was thinking.
Bingo! Without looking too excited, I gestured 2 fingers, pointed at my picks, and then replied with ₩200,000.
Of course, Mr. Sales didn't give in that easily. After a bit of insistence and more back and forth, he finally gave in. YES!
In just an hour's time, the new spectacles would be mine. I say I definitely won the lottery at ₩100,000 a piece. I couldn't even have bought 1/6 pair of a sunglass in NYC at that price.
I went in knowing my eyesight so that I could avoid any potential language dilemmas surrounding an examination. But for those who aren't sure of their prescription, I believe shops do basic exams free of charge.
Everyone had souvenir gifts they needed to purchase and there were so many snacks to try. An hour at the Namdaemun Market went by really quickly. Same day glasses service is the best. Everything from start to finish only took less than 4 hours of the day. If you're not as indecisive as me it could even take only take 2 hours before new glasses reach your hands.
By the time we settled our glasses To-Do, dinner time was greeting us. Our big group found our way to nearby Myeongdong for dinner at School Food Blooming Mari. I don't have much memory of this place except for their colorful cidar/Sprite fruit drinks.
The only bar my friends and I went to in Korea was Bar Pro and that was for their unlimited drinks for an inexpensive price. It definitely wasn't the strongest cocktails but none of us went to Bar Pro for the drink quality.
After introducing our Korean friend (the one who studied full time in America) to Bar Pro, he told us he could show us a better place, alcohol-wise. That's how we ended up in Hongdae's 1st Island that night. 1st Island was definitely interesting. The first thing we were greeted with as we walked inside was a little inflatable pool with a turtle and then a small alligator inside a tank. I think the fee was around ₩25,000 for unlimited drinks, which is considerably higher than at Bar Pro but the cocktails were much much stronger and of bigger quantities.
A few friends left early because they didn't feel well. Being a little curious as to what bar culture was like, I decided to stick around. The more experienced friends in the group led the drinking games and that's how we entertained ourselves for the next couple of hours as we slowly drank/sipped on the vodka cocktails.
The last thing I wanted was to be utterly hammered. I had no idea what my limit was but I kept myself in check with how much I sipped since we had no pressure from each other to chug anything. While I left 1st Island conscious and aware, the same cannot be said about a couple of my friends. None were had the point of throwing up but their imaginations sure ran wild. It was probably in the AMs, we were all walking along to get towards a busier area and someone had mistaken a dog to be paper or vice versa. That sure was a good laugh!
I am not sure what the hangover eats are in Korea but a seollongtang 설렁탕 (ox-bone soup) shop was open at the insane hour we were still out. We needed a place to sit and clear our heads anyways.
By the time we were all okay enough to head back, the only options we had were either a taxi or on foot. Most of us were more than glad to hail a cab the short distance from Hongdae to SK Global. A few wanted to journey back via a stroll, so we ended up splitting up and saying goodbye for the night. It was already past 3AM by the time I arrived in my dorm room and Bestie C had probably been asleep for a few hours already. The hard mattress in my dorm room never looked so comfy.