As the sun was setting (well, it was still technically winter, so dusk sets around 6ish or so) we headed out towards the scenic Cheonggyecheon stream. The Han river is way south of Myeong dong, and it wasn’t on our priority list this time around anyways. So with my trusted Google map, we navigated our way towards the stream: which was walk straight about 3 blocks from the hotel, and turn left. Shazam: Cheonggyecheon stream right before your eyes 🙂
Before reaching the stream though, you will pass through one of Korea’s oldest trading spots. Yes, it goes back hundreds of years. Namdaemun Market, located in the very center of Seoul, is the biggest traditional market in Korea. You can find various clothing for men, women & children as well as daily miscellaneous goods and kitchenware (local and imported). It was rather quiet though as we walked by that evening. Perhaps the action kicks in at night (business begins at 10pm onwards), but I was too tired to last till 10. Lack of sleep on the plane and our endless walkabouts since morning was fast depleting my batteries.
As we turned the corner to find a stairway that would allow us access next to Cheonggyecheon, we found a Tourist Information booth that had the Visit Korea logo.
“Yes! Let’s get some English language maps!”
But as we got closer to the booth, there were no paper-based maps anywhere.
Folks, this is how ADVANCED Seoul is:
There are three giant “iPads” mounted on the wall. Using your finger tips, you scroll, search, minimize, maximize, select whatever it is you want regarding Seoul. Very cool. Across from this booth was a vending machine for various types of coffee. Very chic.
Juxtaposing Past & Present: Cheonggyecheon stream flows under this bridge.
Cheonggyecheon was originally hidden underground, and business was lagging for many shops that were established along its location. Below is a write-up of the stream from the Official site of Korea Tourism:
The Cheonggyecheon stream is said to carry history on its ripples as it bisects the heart of Seoul. From the time of the Joseon Dynasty, when the naturally formed watercourses began to be refurbished into streams, through the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War, when it became a sewage mill for shantytown dwellers, and on to its period as an entombed symbol of the rapid industrialization and economic development experienced by the nation in the 1970s and 1980s—this stream has been through it all.
Pavements and elevated motorways, however, encased the stream for over half a century until 2000, the result of sprouting commercial areas and a lack of urban planning amid hectic development. Many Seoul citizens still remember how the area looked before the Cheonggyecheon restoration project. Its aura at that time could perhaps best be compared to the atmosphere under the Nagwon Arcade in Jongno around midnight these days—crooked alleys and busy vendors dotting the dark corners, shadowed by shabby-looking buildings.
Four years have passed since the completion of the three-year, 386 billion won restoration project. Now the sun shines on Cheonggyecheon, and its surrounding paths have established themselves as a retreat for citizens seeking leisure or a picnicking spot in the summer. It has also drawn many foreign tourists, who marvel at the sight of the stream as it flows among the formidable office buildings and busy traffic of central Seoul. The city government has been developing hiking courses and event venues to entice even more visitors.
Walking alongside the refreshing stream, it was easy to not notice the distance we walked from Cheonggye Plaza. All I knew was if we kept on walking, we would eventually reach Dongdaemun, another shopping haven for fashionistas. Doota is one of the more oft-mentioned places to go for latest trends in fashion. As we enjoyed the walk, we stumbled upon a few breathtaking views:
Along this section of the stream, you can hear piped in traditional music
that would have accompanied the said royal procession of King Jeongjo
This indicator was next to the tiled wall section of Cheonggyecheon
The original unintended plan was to walk to Doota. More like attempt to walk all the way to Dongdaemun. But it was getting dark, we were getting hungry and it was another 1.6kms to the mall. Yes, we had lofty ambitions. Decided to make a U-Turn and find an exit to lead us back to street level. When we surfaced, we found ourselves in a less-than-glamorous area of business. Rows and rows of interior lighting shops, DIY outfits, motorcycle workshops… and more motorcycle workshops. However, as we approached closer to the main intersection that would lead us back to Euljiro 1(il)-ga, we saw a few noteworthy spots:
The “giraffe” looking contraptions on the right are actually street lamps 🙂
Ok, now off to 7-11 for our Tuna Kimbap… but we weren’t really hungry.
Girl scout’s honor…