Expectations for Jamwon were pretty low. A pre-trip look at the map didn’t show anything of distinction except the local section of the Hangang Park. A Google search turned up precisely nothing. And you know those signs they have in the subway stations, the ones with a neighborhood map that list what’s outside each exit? Well, the Jamwon sign went something like: apartment, apartment, apartment, school, apartment, apartment, apartment.
And to be frank, that’s pretty much what we found there. But it also doesn’t give any sort of indication of how pleasant the neighborhood is or of how much I enjoyed the visit. Granted, things were influenced a bit by the absolutely perfect Indian summer day Seoul was getting when we went, but Jamwon would still have been an unexpected surprise regardless.
To begin with, if there is a subway station with a nicer setting in Seoul I am unaware of it. After three years of riding the train here, the notion that I could exit a station and come out on anything but a major street surrounded by convenience stores and crowds no longer even occurred to me. But Jamwon’s four exits flank a quiet, two-lane street, which is divided by a grassy median down the middle. Between the sidewalks and Gyeongwonjunghak Street (경원중학길) are beds of shrubs and wildflowers where daisies and omija berries(?) grow. The street is also lined with gingko trees, and while those of nearby Garosugil (가로수길) may be more celebrated, an autumn stroll with a significant other under the marigold-flecked branches here would be altogether more pleasant, and would offer a much more intimate glimpse at a side of south-river life that usually gets overlooked.
Outside Exit 1 lingered a man selling fruits out of the back of a truck, and across the street, outside Exit 4, was a small produce stand where a pair of ajummas looked over vegetables that very well may have come from the garden planted in a yard just a dozen or so meters behind them, near a large willow tree. Not far from Exit 2 an ajeosshi had commandeered one of the sidewalk’s wooden benches to set up his tiny shoe shine and repair business, and across the way, just in front of Exit 3, people sat in the sun on the patio of the I’m Here Café, the only non-apartment building, along with the next door car wash, immediately outside the station. Junkie that I am, I couldn’t resist caffeine’s siren song and popped on over. Lacking any of the pretense that you’d find at a lot of cafes one stop up at Sinsa, this unassuming little spot served up a pretty fair latte at a pretty fair price, and has one of the nicer outdoor seating areas you’re likely to find in the city.
Coffee in hand, we set off west until reaching Jamwon-ro (잠원로) and heading north in the direction of the river, through neighborhoods stuffed full of apartment complexes. The main east-west street running parallel to the nearby Olympic Expressway (올림픽대로) is also called Jamwon-ro, and is closer to what you’d expect for this part of town: several lanes wide and lined with the usual assortment of businesses with more apartments behind that.
As we walked west my eye caught on a rusty metal door hidden in some pines at the end of a short side street to the north.
It was set in a concrete wall running next to the highway, and so must have been some type of access door for maintenance workers or engineers. So that itself didn’t offer us much, but investigating it did turn up a dirt walking path tucked between the wall and the rows of perfectly spaced trees, which one local resident was taking advantage of for the exercise and shade.
We followed a back alley past some mechanics to the entrance for the Hangang Park – Jamwon District (한강시민공원 잠원지구), an arch of honeycombed frosted-glass. The park offered some of the usual sights – kids on a playground, people walking dogs and exercising, the soft thwup coming from the tennis courts, an old man rolling down the bike path on a tricycle –
but in addition also had a pair of swimming pools (drained for the winter) and one of the more curious riverside attractions we’ve come across: the Silkworm Experience Learning Center (누에체험 학습장), easily spotted by the giant, arching silkworm on its roof. This, however, was unfortunately also closed, so if you’re keen to learn about the magic of silkworms, well, you’ll just have to go yourself.
I’m Here Café
Hangang Park – Jamwon District (한강시민공원 잠원지구)
Silkworm Experience Learning Center (누에체험 학습장)
Walk west and follow the signs; approximately 900 meters