Without wanting to outstay our welcome (or, if you prefer, to avoid the ever increasing number of tourists coaches that were heading our way now that the rain had stopped) we decided to take the 15-20 walk towards Samcheong-dong (삼청동). It’s a neighbourhood that I’ve only ever driven through and wanted to get a feel of what it looked like from the ground up.
There’s an interesting contrast of the old and new as make your way from Kyeongbok Palace, past yet more nondescript museums and art galleries, walking alongside its long, narrow, and seemingly never-ending walls.
It’s a pleasant enough walk. In fact, with only the massive line of tourist coaches (again) lining up for parking spaces, the walk in itself is actually quite quiet compared to the relative hustle and bustle madness of Sejong-ro. As you make your way towards the end of the road you begin to see more of a security presence. This is mainly because the presidential residence “The Blue House” (Cheong Wa Dae – 청와대) is just up the road. Interestingly enough, this part of Seoul was also witness to one of the more ‘daring’ raids from Our Friends In The North in the late 1960’s.
An elite group of commandos were sent by the North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung to (literally) get the head of the then Korean President (but in reality, dictator) Park Chung Hee. The mission was not successful in its final objective, but they did get to about 400 metres of the ‘Blue House’ and their main target. A more detailed account is here…
So, with all that in mind, we meandered our way up, hoping not to bump into some mad, brain-washed, ninja types, but instead, we’d settle for something, hopefully, a bit more ‘friendly’.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there are lots of very similar things on offer. There are shoe shops aplenty, boutiques, chocolatiers, independent coffee shops (a pleasant change from those ‘other’ ones that are in abundance elsewhere), as well as quite a few small galleries and art spaces. So, if you want to shop, eat, drink or just browse, then this should be right up your street (if you’ll pardon the pun).
With all that walking we were getting a bit hungry. After looking through various (and somewhat swankier) menus, we decided to just eat at a local, regular restaurant. This is the kind of place that you’ll find almost anywhere in Seoul and get fed reasonably well for $5 or so. Nothing fancy, but kimchi-fried rice (as seen in the now ubiquitous food shot) did the job. Ten minutes. Fed and watered. Then good to go and finish the walk. If that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of other choices to suit your taste.
It’s not too long before you come across several (very steep) flights of stairs that’ll magically transport you to the Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을). Hanok is the term used to describe a traditional Korean house, and it’s definitely something worth spending a bit of time looking through. These photos may be a better way of showing rather than telling…
Well, other than quite a long walk back to Insadong for a well-deserved cup of coffee (and cake, of course), that was pretty much how we spent the best part of 3 or 4 hours. On the way back you’ll notice that Bukchon has a very similar kind of vibe to that of Samcheong-dong. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bring your date. Walk. Talk. Eat. Have a drink and enjoy this unique part of the city.