If Seoul was to be made into a movie, what kind of genre would it be? First off, from an outsider’s perspective, Seoul might have that science fiction or action kind of look to it, but those who know Seoul best will likely associate the city with that of a drama or romance. For many years, the heart of Seoul has been adored by people from all walks thanks to all the beautifully tucked away nooks and alleyways. And with just a look back, the N Seoul Tower stands tall to remind me of where I am. Anyway, now that we’re growing deeper into the autumn season with the aroma of fallen leaves taking to the air, let’s explore the more romantic side of Seoul, shall we?
Reminiscent of the ambiance found in traditional Korean culture, Ssamji-gil, located at the entrance of Insadong, resembles that of a day at its height in mid-afternoon. It’s a place where the sounds of people gathered in chatter naturally blend in with the surroundings. Most commonly, it’s known for its modern reinterpretation of traditional Korean crafts. In fact, the crafts shops of all the numerous creative designers in the area are perhaps the source of Ssamji-gil’s vibrance. It’s like a massive workshop where shopkeepers set their creative talents free on the street, filling it with the different colors of the traditional Korean five-color spectrum called “obangsaek.” With the assortment of crafts, pictures, and other items, it’s as if the street was ripped from the scene of a comic book movie backdrop!
Alive with tradition, Insadong is constantly evolving despite maintaining the image of being seemingly changeless. The traditional crafts hung up on display along the street reveal the details and craftsmanship of Korean handiwork. Trekking throughout the different nooks and corners of this maze-like area will take you on a time travel adventure back into the Joseon Dynasty to witness the remnants of what once had been. And as we travel in the present along a street of the past, it’s almost as if we’re living out the script of some time-travel sci-fi film. So, head on out as your adventure awaits!
Compared with the long history of Insadong, Ikseondong conveys a more recent, modern impression of Korea. With its light, flowing vibe, Ikseondong is like a perfectly laid canvas for a movie set with each beautifully set alleyway. The hanok alleyway has a variety of shops offering French cuisine, soufflé shops, and more, but the area as a whole is as Korean as it gets! It almost symbolizes the very nature of Korea’s ability to maintain and preserve tradition while coming to embrace newly-formed culture. This makes Ikseongdong, in its own way, a sort of pioneering trendsetter that continually is on a path of preservation of the old and creation of the new. It’s a picturesque aesthetic that closely resembles a scene from a historical film that brings a specific point in time back to life.
As one of Seoul’s downtown leisure spots that is shared by multiple city districts, Cheonggyecheon Stream is home to a quaint ecological environment with ducks and fish galore, making you forget that you’re smack-dab in the middle of the city. The stream stretches a span of 10 km, but once you start walking along, it becomes difficult to gauge exactly how long the course actually is. If you peek close enough at all the buildings, big and small, lining the Cheonggyecheon Stream, it all seems busy and active, yet from a distance, it’s like watching a silent movie play out. Take a little time out of your day and come on by for some refreshing meditation to help appease and empty your mind.
#Sewoon Shopping Center
The “sewoon” of Sewoon Shopping Center is an expression meaning, “A place where the energy of the world gathers.” In 1968, following the shopping center’s completion, it can’t be said whether it was able to gather the world’s energy, but it certainly has become the meeting place for younger generations. Chairs made from signboards, artistic graffiti blending naturally into the background, and other unique traits of the area give off a much different vibe than all the tightly-knit, newly-constructed buildings. All the shops and centers located downtown that sprung up over the past several decades without much of a blueprint on hand make for some fascinating treasure hunting of a sort. What kind of sounds, smells, or landscape was it that could have lured all these young entrepreneurs to the Sewoon Shopping Center? It’s almost like that of a classic movie recalling the nostalgia of a generation that has yet to be born!
Once a forgotten street along with the retro trend it was home to, Euljiro has made a comeback as of late! And that isn’t because of the trending retro movement in the area, it’s actually simpler than that. Euljiro remains intact despite the passage of time. Once you enter the surrounding alleyways, large wheel carts and scooters are everywhere to be found with their sounds adding vibrance and life to the alleyways. If you walk around long enough avoiding the passing bicycles and people, you’ll find yourself at the doorstep of shops founded by young entrepreneurs that had once chased after their dreams in their youth. I wonder if they knew at the time that their lives would turn out to be the stuff movies are made of.
Embodying the lives of expert craftsman from the past and present day, the sounds of equipment in operation along the Cheonggyecheon Market street represents Korea’s development throughout modern history as the people sped forward into the future. And for all the crowded signage and bustling businesses, ironically, the use of English wording is sparse. With the shops set in shaded areas under a canopy to boot, the street emanates a dark, greyish look even during the day! But the vibe is alive and kicking with all the interaction and passers-by that come around. Despite potentially facing an eventual expiry date in the future, the market itself captures that of a raw, human documentary, tossing aside the aesthetics of doctored social media content.
Korea is known for its stylish fashion and witnessed a great deal of pertinent history dramatically unfold within the fashion capital of Seoul. Within this historical timeline, there have been many efforts made behind the scenes amid the development of the fashion industry. One of the locations of all that heart and effort exhibited is Bongje Street, located in Changsin-dong. Following the Korean War, the labor going into each sewing machine has continued on up through the present day in this narrow alleyway busy with the coming and going of scooters. It’s the only spot in the city where you can experience the weirdly unfamiliar sounds of sewing machines dressed in the aroma of fresh laundry. Despite the simplicity of the street’s vibe, it’s the perfect recreation of an indie film that clearly prioritizes artistic value.
#Changsin-dong Cliff Village
The high-elevated village with its meandering street leading up to it is set atop a granite cliffside. And despite the village structures that look dangerously at risk of tumbling off the precipice, they have kept their ground for several years. The further you climb up the hill toward the village you can catch a glimpse of rooftops and yards growing smaller in view, giving you a gorgeous overlook across a wide breadth of land. Once you reach the top, the panoramic of Seoul with all the tiny housing below is breathtaking. Even the narrow, unpaved street you had to venture up in order to get to the village at the summit looks beautiful from up at the top! It’s like one of those coming-of-age movies where we’ve come so far yet must continue onward to see what the ‘morrow brings!
#Changsin Alley Market
Is there anyone out there that possibility could dislike the alleyway and market culture? Savory aromas of different foods fill the air of Changsin Alley Market, a market particularly known for its spicy jokbal. It’s all too easy to get stopped in your tracks as you pass by the stacks of jokbal along the market aisle. These foods that lay out on display waiting to be served really add something to the market dynamic. There is nothing that the market doesn’t offer when it comes to food either! Whether it’s things to see, foods to eat, or just bustling crowds of people, Changsin Alley Market will surely resemble some kind of rhythmic musical with all the activity the more you look at it. Stop by and enjoy the sounds, sites, and smells of tradition!
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