Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Insa-dong (인사동) - A Cultural District That Could Be Enjoyed in Better Weather @ Seoul [Korea]

On my last day in Korea, i ventured out alone without my sisters! Since this was a last minute decision, i scrambled my head on where to go! After searching for a short while on google, i decided to cast my lot on Insadong; a cultural district said to be interesting.

Took the subway, exited Jonggak Station and got lost momentarily. Darn, i should have transferred and dropped at Anguk Station which was far nearer to Insadong. p.s. go towards the direction of the CenterMark Hotel which is next to the district. 

Like Singapore this evening, it was a bloody rainy day! And as you can see, there was literally not much shelter unless you hole yourself up in one of the shop houses! For me, i proceeded along the street with a brolly on one hand, a camera on the other and holding my sling bag close to me to prevent it from getting wetter! 

Not an easy feat i guarantee you! I envisioned a day of relaxed strolling down the road and this incredibly use of motor skills due to the rain was unexpected! Sigh.... i think i would be anticipating a mold attack on my DSLR lens soon. :( 

When i decided on Insadong, it was mainly due to a lack of Korean cultural infusion thus far into my trip and i thought this "lonesome" journey would help to enrich the experience. 

Sadly, i didn't quite get what i seek out for. Of course, i presume this was a result of a few factors; mainly because of the wet weather which would have deterred shop owners from marketing their wares in the open. 

Another factor was the day i visited; a Tuesday by the way. According to this website, it would be more happening to drop by on a Saturday or Sunday when some of the streets are closed and there might even be performances and exhibits! 

Note: although tagged as traditional street with over five hundred years of history, you would not find many buildings with traditional architecture. What i saw, at least on the main Insadong-gil, were shophouses flanking both sides. Drop by the side-roads (alleys), where you might have better luck.

To get into the Korean spirit, you may even pay a small sum of money to doll yourself up as a Korean queen or king and take some professional photos as mementos. Would i do it? I will if it is free! 

With the rain getting stronger, i had to seek refuge in a building that had a few levels of shops selling expensive products. Out of boredom, i even went up to the rooftop to have a better view of the surrounding. Oh well, the roof wasn't exactly very high up to begin with. 

Frankly, i really wanted to try out the delicacies but i didn't have anyone to share with me (bane of travelling alone)! With Alex, i can still force persuade him to help out a bit in terms of stomach space and funding! 

At this point, i thought i should have just gone with my siblings who seemed to be enjoying themselves with some of the photos i received on whatsapp. This "self discovery" trip has proven to be rather boring...

Thankfully i chanced upon another shopping mall; open concept, pretty dated and known as Ssamzigil Mall (something i found out only today). 

The above pictures would give you a better idea on what it looked like. Basically, it didn't have many shops but each shop was blessed with its own character; i saw a bag i really wanted at close to S$200 and would have gladly paid for it if not for the fact that i had purchased one earlier that morning. 

Rooftop of the mall and aside from a cafe, there was something else that i guess all lovers would come up for. I am quite surprised to find it in a mall though since such stuff was more common in notable landmarks. 

Love pledge wall! It was quite a sight to behold and unlike the more common locks, these vibrant tags were more interesting, sporting different designs in lovey-dovey colours. 

Not sure how much it cost but i am seriously too old for this. Heck, i am turning 35 this year and would finally be eligible to buy a government flat as a single! 

Now, this appeared traditional! Converted into a teahouse, this was right beside Ssamzigil Mall and located along the alleys. I actually intended to step in afterwards but something else attracted me. 

This! Want to guess what cafe is this?

Hint as above; a familiar cup of green tea latte! This is a branch of OSulloc, selling what i branded as the best green tea latte i ever have back in their Jeju branch! Pity it wasn't of the same standard here with a noticeable tartness i associated with most green tea products. Ugh! 

There were tonnes of restaurants in Insadong; just check out the alleys which also have a higher percentage of buildings with preserved traditional style. 

End of my walk which was nearer to Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6! My recommendation is to start from Anguk Station as there is an information counter where you can source for a good map to start your walk. 


Map of Insadong
As above.

For the summary of my inaugural South Korea trip 
(Seoul and Jeju Island), click HERE.

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