The walk down Noryangjin-ro (노량진로) outside Exit 1 wasn’t offering up much in the way of interest, so we decided to duck off it and head into the area sandwiched between it and the railway tracks just to the north. Our eye was caught by a big lot that had been sectioned off with scaffolding and cloth blinds, and so we decided to turn in there. One big section of the screen had been left open, and it picture-framed an idle backhoe sitting next to a couple of large piles of rubble, and in the distance beyond, the factory-made green of a mesh driving range net.
Further in, we wandered through a pretty typical lower-middle class Korean neighborhood of red brick homes and small villas. Every so often we could hear the loud rumble of a train rolling by.
After five minutes or so we came to the end of an alley and stumbled across a pair of brightly painted wooden doors beneath a tile roof with a sign reading Jeongnyongsa (정룡사). Each door was painted with a warrior deity (I’m sure there’s a proper term for these guys, and if anyone knows it and would post it in the comments I’d be grateful.) perched on wispy clouds and dressed in flowing green, white, and brown robes. The one on the right clutched an axe while the one on the left brandished a sword.
Behind the doors was a large iron bell set in a red wooden pavilion, covered by a painted tile roof. Cabbage leaves and green onions rested against the pavilion’s base. There was a house just behind the bell and we were wondering whether or not someone actually lived there when our question was answered by a toddler who came outside, the look on his face making it clear that he was utterly perplexed about what a couple of foreigners were doing there. We weren’t sure how public the place was and decided it was best to leave, and just as we were doing so the boy’s mom came out and, smiling, cheerfully remarked, ‘어, 외국인 왔나요!’ (Oh, foreigners came!)
After making our way back to the station we crossed to the north side of the tracks via the sidewalk alongside a highway overpass, the Yeongdeungpo area to one side, and a (rather hazy) view of the Yeouido skyline to the other.
On the other side of Noryangjin-ro and near Exit 3 we passed by a pair of men putting in a concrete floor, smoothing it by hand with what looked like a sheet of plywood on the end of a long stick.
Between Singil-ro (신길로) and Gyeongin-ro (경인로), to the southwest of the station, is what a sign we saw referred to as Motel Town – a block long side street lined with love motels. We had to admit that some of them were pretty classy looking. We also had to admit that that admission set us up as a punch line to a You know you’ve been living in Korea for too long when… joke.
The usual privacy curtain of plastic spaghetti strings hung down over the entrances to the motels’ parking areas, half-obscuring the inside so that if one wanted to snoop they couldn’t just casually glance in but would have to make themselves conspicuous by crouching down or blatantly pulling the straps aside. Which, obviously, we did. But the 몽블랑 (Mont Blanc) Hotel was a step ahead of us and had propped up wooden boards in front of cars’ license plates, an extra precaution I hadn’t seen before. Written on the front of the board?: 사랑해요 고객님! (We love our customers!)
Just a bit further down Singil-ro and through a pedestrian underpass we came out next to the sizeable Yeongdeungpo Park (영등포공원). Some middle schoolers were out playing hoops in the warm weather and on the badminton courts nearby a pair of married couples were having a mixed doubles match.
In the center of the park, near a small brook, is a large plaza; at one end is a collection of granite markers indicating the relative positions of all of Seoul’s districts (구), and at the other is a huge black bulbous iron bowl with a thin chimney extending out the top, so the whole thing looks a bit like an enormous onion that had been dipped in ink. A small plaque on one side identified it as having been used for brewing beer for over 60 years, from 1933 to 1996.
The park seemed especially popular with retired men, and there were lots of ajeosshis sitting around on park benches or in the grass, nearly all of them by themselves. Some, of course, had soju or makkeoli, and we watched as one pulled his electric scooter up to a bench, got out, sat down on the bench, and took a two liter bottle of soju and a single paper cup out of the basket on the front of his scooter.
Drinking in a more, erm, respectable fashion can be done in the large entertainment district that sits between Yeongdeungpo-ro (영등포로)and Gyeongin-ro. Had we known about the place in advance we might have made this stop a night trip, as the area is chock full of bars, restaurants, noraebangs, crane games, and everything else you’d expect to find in that type of neighborhood.
While most things on the main streets were closed, this area was fairly bustling even on a Sunday afternoon. It’s also a very Korean nightspot, with nothing that caters to foreign tastes. If you’re looking for a very Korean night out, or simply to get out of Hongdae or Itaewon for a weekend, this might be an interesting option to try.
Walk east down Noryangjin-ro for a bit, then turn north in the direction of the train tracks. From there, good luck. Stumble around for a while and you might find it.
From Yeongdeungpo Rotary (영등포로터리) go south on Singil-ro.
Yeongdeungpo Park (영등포공원)
From Yeongdeungpo Rotary go south on Singil-ro. Continue through the pedestrian underpass.
Yeongdeungpo entertainment district
From Yeongdeungpo Rotary go west on Yeongdeungpo-ro.