My favourite street in Seoul used to be Insadong. When I last visited in 2006, Insadong was a lively street filled with young, creative people selling quirky stuff from little shops that seemed to spring out from the narrow alleys. It is afterall, a centre for the arts and a focal point of Korean traditional culture. Most of all, I could not forget the piping hot Korean Hoddeok (sweet pancake with brown sugar and peanut filling) which tasted so good in the cold, wintry night.
However, when I returned to Insadong last Saturday, it was a let-down. At 7.30pm, the street appeared so touristy and only the souvenir shops were opened. The street vendors, especially the one selling my favourite hoddeok, have all gone into hiding during the hot summer months.
Luckily, my Korean friend insisted on bringing me to Bukchon and Samcheong Dong first. She thought I would like it better than Insadong. Incidentally, Samcheong (sam means “three” and cheong “clean or good”) was given its name in reference to the three things it has plenty of: clean water, beautiful neighboring mountains and kind-hearted residents.
Indeed, while walking to Samcheong Dong, she pointed out Gyeongbokgung Palace (the home of royalty during the Joseon Dynasty) on the left and Changdeokgung Palace (a secondary palace during the Joseon Dynasty) on the right, with Cheong Wa Dae (the President’s Office) to the north.
Samcheong-Dong appeals to the artistic type and there are lots of chic cafes, shops and boutiques integrating harmoniously with the traditional Korean houses. I fell in love with Samcheong-Dong instantly!
|I love everything about this shop, especially the name!|
|The Naked Museum is scheduled for opening next year.|
|Cute and quirky signs like this are present everywhere.|
|What can I say? Even the meter boxes are nice.|
There is a good mix of traditional wooden houses and modern buildings.
|All the shops try to attract customers in their own ways. Some use pigs.|
|The dog is a living mascot for a pie shop.|
My friend treated me to a traditional red bean dessert at this restaurant which is the second best one in Seoul.
The shop is run by a few old ladies and many locals kept streaming in to eat the desserts.
The red bean paste served with chestnut, ginkgo nut, sweet beans and glutinous rice was so good!
The sweet and cold puff rice soup was refreshing on a hot day.
As the sky began to darken, we climbed up a small alley which led us to Insadong. It was a most intriguing experience.
The alleys in Bukchon is maze-like, winding and twisting between houses. Everyday life here takes place not only within the houses but also outside. In the alleys, housewives hang out the wash and dry grains and hot peppers.
Maintained remarkably well, the calm, antique beauty of Korean traditional houses stand proud amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, making this one of the most extraordinary places in Seoul.