The Seoul Trip : Han River and Hyochang Park
Waking up on day 3 brought my attention to the wonders my futon-style bed in the loft space of our officetel was working on my back. I’d honestly highly recommend it to anyone!
The previous evening we’d come up with the small plan of “hit up Yongsan park and the National Museum (which lies within)”, and so with that idea in mind, we dragged our butts out of the door after a small bout of morning television (seeing your favourite shows LIVE is so much better than having to go through the stress of streaming or downloading through the internet!) and began to head down the road on foot in the hopes of reaching our intended destination.
Every single time we step out the front door of our building i’m hit by just how warm, calm, and, simply beautiful, this city is. Despite the cars that speed by on the roads beside us, the bartering ahjummas and ahjusshis trying to sell the wares at their stalls, and the office workers all clambering into the same restaurant/cafe as they animatedly talk away to one another, you can’t help but appreciate the sense of community spirit that emanates from every crevice of the place. Even when we accidentally ended up stumbling across one of the main army camps which sits across from the Military Museum, rather than a sense of intimidation from the barb wire fences, the high steel walls disguised by lush green vines and the vast number of Military personnel and vehicles, you gain more of a sense of determination and hard-work from the people that walk by in neatly ironed khaki uniforms.
However, moving on, first impressions of the sheer architectural beauty and well-kept grounds of the military museum definitely distracted us from the fact that we may have taken a different path to the one we’d originally planned. The ‘dome of the two brothers’ which stands upon the central path to the main building initiates the tone of the site as it explains (in both Hangul and English) the story behind the statue: a re-enactment of the moment a south Korean and north Korean soldier embraced on the battlefield. Its very much a sense of hope for the future that clings to the museum and its grounds, one that is reinstated with each monument, statue, and display, you pass, each providing more information on the Korean war and its tragedies, as well as its contributors; a large plazza which stands as the base before the entrance to the museum building itself, houses a display of flags that line the outside of the space, each flag having a plaque at its base providing information on the contribution of each UN country it represents. Around the outside of the museum is also a huge exhibition of war ships and planes which are accessible to the public, allowing the ability to become more involved with the history that each display was a part of, and to the rear of the main museum is a children’s museum, where there is the chance for young children to dress up and role play as each of the different roles which the war accommodated for. Despite some people’s initial reaction to topics of war and such, i honestly think the museum is a really wonderful place to go and experience the true Korean perspective of such an important part of their history.
Moving on from the museum, we decided to continue heading up the road we’d originally been on, still with the vain hope of catching sight of a large expanse of green which could potentially be a park- although the second we catch sight of the large archway above the road which read ‘Itaewon’, you can probably guess we made the realization that we’d gone too far. (We were overdue to make a wrong turn somewhere.) xD
However, rather than calling it a ‘mistake’, the wrong turn actually ended up being a rather fortunate turn of events, as, after a brief pit stop at a convenience store for a top up on banana milk (it really never gets old!), we ended up stumbling upon the Banpo bridge that crossed the Han River. Of course, we ended up making a huge tourist mistake by deciding to actually walk Banpo bridge (which in itself took about 15-20), about 5 minutes in observing that no-one else was walking the road, and realizing we should have taken the metro or caught a bus xD However, it was all worth it once we were on the opposite side of the bridge and were able to sit down to eat lunch and enjoy the scenic views of such an iconic river.
For myself, the Han river was a huge part of visiting Seoul; being one of the main symbols of the city, the River had been part of my mental image of Seoul for so long (particularly with my love for Tablo, and his lyrics in the song ‘Hood ft Joey Badass’), and so to see it in person was an almost overwhelming experience, one which also allowed me to cross one of my dreams off my bucket list ^^
Following this, was the (I estimate) 13km treck to Mapo Bridge. I will put it out there, this walk was definitely all by choice, and allowed us to enjoy the Han river in its full beauty, as well as experience the various sights to see along its banks. However, after testing out the multiple collections of exercise equipment along the way (with which we provided all the watching ahjummas/ahjusshis with much amusement), and passing many a group of passionate cyclists and fishermen, we were very relieved to finally stumble upon ‘Yeouido Hangang park’, one of the most popular places to picnic by the river that a lot of people will recognize from dramas and television shows. Living up to its reputation, we arrived just as the influx of after-work/school people were filling into the area, and so as we rested on one of the benches scattered around the walkways, we couldn’t help but enjoy the sheer amount of fried chicken, pizza’s and various takeouts that were being delivered to each picnic blanket, as well as the small ahjumma that was selling some sort of snack from a large plastic tub- who was all laughs and smiles when she came to sit beside us. As much as we wanted to stay there for the evening and enjoy the atmosphere of relaxation, with how much our legs were hurting from our hike, we decided to leave the fun and games for another day, and slowly made our way back home.
If you couldn’t already tell…we never did make it to Yongsan park or the National Museum xD
(Top Tip No.3: Take a moment to absorb everything! I know I, for one, am guilty of trying to rush things when i get excited; wanting to see and do everything all at once! But i urge anyone who travels to this country (or anywhere as beautiful as it) to pause and allow yourself a few seconds to just take it all in. As much as there may be time later, you should always try to live in the moment, and appreciate the NOW!) :)
Today was a…slow day.
Given that we’d been in Seoul for at least 3 days by this point, it still hadn’t really sunk in that we were in the city of our dreams, and so with jet lag still very much trying to weigh our brains down, we decided to take a day off from exploring (given that we still have plenty more time to see everything) and we spent the majority of the morning and afternoon in bed to rejuvenate, and to appreciate the lifestyle of an officetel. With only a brief jaunt to the store downstairs to grab more essentials and some lunch, it was almost 4pm by the time we made it outside once more, and were hit with the heat from the day- 28′C for a British person is pretty much peak summer!
Given that we wanted to take the day slow, we simply headed for our nearest park (Hyochang), allowing us to explore our local area a little more.
Now, one thing is for sure; Seoul parks are 100% superior to English parks.
Immediately at the entrance we were greeted by a beautiful traditional archway, the structure, once we’d walked through, appearing to enclose the ‘warm’ wonderland delights that hid behind it; exotic plant gardens being tended by the local community group of Ahjumma’s in green visors and brightly printed leggings, memorials for deceased local soldiers that fought for their country interspersed with monuments commemorating hardships that had been overcome, beautiful flower gardens with traditional-wooden benches, which in themselves are intermingled with pathways down which highschool students sprint as they complete their daily miles, and an abundance of outdoor exercise gyms where all the ahjusshi’s (as well as a few younger folk) are maintaining their physiques. Its only as you begin to explore the area a little more that you become aware of the couples and the families interspersed on the tables throughout the area, the children’s play equipment, and the majesty of the authentic gazebos which stand beside aesthetic book swap cases that announce the spirit of ease, and friendliness of the area, eliminating any lingering feelings of potential danger that a foreign place holds to many new travelers (me).
Its one of those places that you could sit in all day without growing weary or bored, the sense of calm and tranquility simply allowing you to enjoy a lifestyle and a culture that professes love, friendship, and community, from its every aspect. I honestly could have watched the people wandering through the gardens all day from our love-heart shaped swing seat. However, after a gentle jaunt through the remainder of the gardens we slowly made our way home once more, deciding to spend the remainder of our lazy day in the comfort of our pajamas, delicious food, and series 2 of Versailles xD
With the knowledge of our activities for the next few days, we thought it better to rest up as much as we could…;)
(P.S. I have fallen so head over heels in love with this city that this update is a little late! However, with a little time to spare right now, i will quickly write out the next post, and catch you all up on our adventures!) ;)
- Mo admin x -