Saturday, December 4, 2010


Since last weekend was spent settling in and getting acquainted with the area in and around work/my apartment, I decided to use this weekend to explore Incheon a bit more.

One of the great things about my late afternoon work schedule is that if I'm willing to get up reasonably early sometimes throughout the week I can actually do a lot in the hours before my first class. So yesterday when I headed out it was also with the intention of getting comfortable enough with the subway that on workdays I won't have to worry about getting lost and being late for my first class. 

And I think I did pretty good for my first time wandering around a new city and riding a subway solo! I am notoriously awful with directions and have no internal compass whatsoever. I once got lost driving around my hometown at night- a town that is five square miles. It happens. 

But there was no pressure to hurry back when I got turned around so I took my time figuring out what exactly I did wrong and how to get where I needed to be. Plus I was armed with an English subway map and the compass that my boyfriend half jokingly gave me as a going away present (it would have come in handy had I actually known which direction I needed to head in!).

The first place I decided to check out was the Incheon Culture & Arts Center. After loading my T money card with ₩10,000 (about $10) I hopped on the subway at Woninjae and went five stops to the Arts Center. When I came out of the station I was across the street from a park so I wandered over to check it out and it was an Olympic Park!

There are few things I love more than the Olympics, especially the Summer Games. Seoul hosted them in '88 and this little park (the stone simply says "Olympic Park") seems to just be a commemorative one.
 This guy, Hodori the tiger, was the mascot for the Seoul Games.
When I left the park I saw a sign for the Arts Center and wandered around some more in its general direction. I went down some quiet sides streets, passed coffee shops and convenience stores and people going about their everyday business. I spotted another park with a bunch of different sculptures and headed in there.
The most I can make out from this is "Centre Park" and even then I may be butchering it. I looked on a map later for the name but couldn't find it.
These tree scultpures surround what looks to be a zero depth water area. I already made a mental note to come back here in the summertime!
I can't say for certain what exactly this park is but the pieces of art all seemed to be celebrating the relationship between Korea and other Asian countries. This piece with Arabic on it had Korean written on the back.
This piece had both Chinese and Korean writing and other pieces had Korean and Japanese as well as Korean and Vietnamese respectfully.
Lots of Korean parks have exercise equipment and I snapped a couple shots of these ladies getting a morning work out in. It's a pretty great idea actually. Not everyone can afford gym memberships and since so many Koreans live in apartments there isn't exactly room for ellipticals and treadmills.
Every time you walk down the street here you'll see someone wearing one of those paper face masks that people were rocking during the height of Swine flu. Koreans wear these when they have just a common cold to prevent other people from catching it. I feel like everyone has been getting sick lately so maybe some people wear them so they won't catch one to begin with? Anyway most are plain but I've seen kids wearing cartoon character ones.

As I was leaving the park I saw a sign for a library and attempted to find it. I never did but I found myself along a residential street with some pretty cool sidewalk wall art.

The women pictured are Kisaeng (기생), who were trained entertainers.
And their crazy heavy looking hairdo comes from wearing a gache (가체) which basically was just a ginormous fancy wig.
This guy and his horse are my favorite. Look how happy they are, aww bffs!
Just a residential street. It was really quiet, not too many people were out and about yet.
Two old fellas in a park playing what was most likely Janggi (장기). It's a strategy game so I guess sort of like Korean chess.
I strolled some more and finally found the Arts Center!
There's a bunch of theater events and whatnot that go on here but mostly Arts Center refers to the entire surrounding area, like the restaurants and shops.
I saw this on a building nearby. Apparently Incheon has an excellent team. This is why you should visit during baseball season Mom!
These things appeal to me in exactly that order.
Turns out it's a coffee shop, and a really cozy one at that.
I ordered a waffle which looked much more appealing than my camera is giving it credit for. Waffles are really popular here which is a-okay by me.

It took me a minute to figure out both the book and the spa parts of the name. On one wall they had some shelves with books and magazines for the borrowing. Everything was in Korean so I took a copy of Vogue Korea to peruse. Turns out it looks a hell of a lot like American Vogue. Western celebrities and models on four out of five pages. Surprise surprise.

The spa took me a little longer to work out. But when my waffle order was called I headed to the counter, looked down and saw this:

Feet as fish food! I've read on a bunch of blogs people mention a place in Seoul I think called Dr. Fish where you stick your feet into a pool of fish who nibble at them, thus removing all the dead skin. Apparently it doesn't hurt, just feels a little funny. I think this is awesome and want to do it at some point but I opted not to yesterday just because I didn't really want fish gnawing on my feet right next to the same table I was eating at. It's on my list though!
Back in the spring when I was still in school I had an assignment for one class where I had to interview someone about fairy tales they grew up with. My friend told me some of the Korean stories she'd heard as a kid. One story she related was about the origins of the Sun and the Moon. In a nutshell, a tiger eats a mother on her way to the market, takes on her clothing, and then chases her two children up a tree in an attempt to eat them too. They plead to heaven for help and a rope comes down which they climb up to safety. When the tiger tries to climb the rope it becomes rotten and he falls to his death. In heaven the sister becomes the sun and the brother the moon. I'm pretty sure this sculpture is a depiction of the key scene in this story.

After taking a look around the Arts Center I got back on the Subway and went up to Bupyeong Market.
The subway here is so nice. Very clean and I like the safety of the closed doors to keep anyone from getting on the track. Also all the signs are in Korean, Chinese, and English so it's super easy as a non-native speaker to navigate. My favorite part is the little tune that plays to signal that the upcoming station is where you can transfer lines.
Outdoor market area in Bupyeong. I found a nice little stationary and art supplies shop here where I scooped up a multi-flap folder for the papers I'm accumulating for the classes I teach. Not very exciting, it was really my only purchase of the day besides snacks, but I have a whole year ahead of me to get the fun stuff.
Bupyeong Market is a huge underground shopping mall. Mostly they sell clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry and beauty supplies. It gets a bit repetitive after a while and it was crazy packed but they had some nice things.
The land of the free, home of the RoboCops.
One of these things is not like the other. At some point I'll probably devote an entire post to just food. Grocery shopping is an adventure in and of itself.

I wandered around Bupyeong after leaving the market and again was reminded why I'm so lucky to be in Yeonsu. I'm sure for some people it's great but it's too crazy in Bupyeong for my liking. Getting back to Yeonsu felt like having someone turn the volume down. I much prefer the quieter scene.

I lost my way trying to get back to the subway and this was when I was thankful I'd saved this first trip out for a weekend and not a work day. Basically I was on the wrong subway line but realized it right away and headed back toward Bupyeong Station to make the transfer back to the Incheon line. From a native's perspective I probably did look like the clueless foreigner but whatever, I am after all, at least for now.
I stashed my camera while I was trying to find my way back but pulled it out one last time once I finally found my neighborhood. It's so colorful here at night. Bright and fun without being garish I think. I really love it.

I spent today just relaxing but next weekend I'm hoping to hit up someplace new again and perhaps during a morning or two this week as well. Though there are loads of pictures here (too many?) I took way more than this and am working on getting a Flickr account up so I can stash them all in one place for people to see.

Also I updated the link list (on the top right) and for those people reading this who are actually in Korea now there are some useful sites to check out for information as well as things to do.

I'm about to attempt cooking sliced rice cakes for dinner with a side of laundry and prepping for tomorrow's classes. Stay tuned!

Trivia of the Day: Baekdu Mountain, also known as Changbai Mountain in China, is a volcanic mountain on the border between North Korea and China. The Korean name, Baekdu-san (백두산) means "white-headed mountain". Koreans consider Mount Baekdu as the place of their ancestral origin and as a sacred mountain, one of the three "spirited" mountains; the one contained in the legendary foundation of Korea. From the beginning of history through the Three Kingdoms period, to the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, Koreans have spiritually depended upon the "divine" mountain. Foreign visitors, mostly South Koreans, usually climb the mountain from the Chinese side, although Baekdu Mountain is a common tourist destination for the few foreign tourists in North Korea.


  1. Wow, all of those pictures are great! For someone that took a full year to upload pictures from NYCC, I'm astonished at your promptness! :D I kid, I kid. But really, your trip is already looking wonderful. I wish I spent as much time cataloging my trip to Italy. E-mail me your address or something so I can mail you a post card or we could do a little snail mail business (because receiving mail is just plain awesome).

    And the "BOOK SPA TEA" place is where us and everyone we know would spend too much time. Alcohol, internet, and kittens would be necessary in order for us all to move in, don't you say?

    I'm glad you're having a great time! The quiet moments are always the best when you're exploring.

  2. Hahaha it's so true, I usually take forever! I actually have pictures from this fall that I need to put up. I'm trying to get in the habit though of being better about it while I'm here so I don't get too behind on updates.

    Snail mail would be fun! I have no clue what my apartment address even is and I was told to just have any mail sent to the school so I'll send you that address and we'll see how long stuff actually takes to arrive.

    Oh and you should come visit :) Or if Rebecca does JET then hit us up both during the same trip! I want visitors! I'm going to keep putting up pictures of places you would enjoy until you give in :)


  4. LOL Chungstables I'm so happy I'm making you proud. I saw it and was like, "Hm this looks familiar- OMG CHUNG TOLD ME THIS STORY I ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THIS!" It was a shining moment for me ;)