Remember that old game show Let’s Make a Deal? The one where you had to make a decision about whether or not to trade in the prize you’ve already received for one of three mystery prizes? Each mystery prize was hidden behind a door labeled 1, 2, or 3; some doors opened to reveal what’s known in the industry as ‘fantastic prizes,’ others hid what the show called ‘zonks’: a wheelbarrow, say, or a llama. Little bit like arriving at Cheongwan. Three exits labeled, coincidentally, 1, 2, and 3. Each hiding a mystery result, only here the zonk isn’t an ill-tempered camelid, but the inconvenience of finding yourself in the middle of a construction zone, which two of the exits will provide you with.
I started the trip by choosing Exit 1, and I chose poorly. Immediately outside the exit the pavement ends, having been ripped up to reveal just the exposed dirt underneath. There aren’t exactly backhoes and Caterpillars bearing down on you, but it’s a pretty disorienting feeling to come up from underground and have the only things around you be huge piles of dirt, giant concrete cylinders, and pyramids of black plastic tubing bundled together with rope. Not too far beyond this tableau blocks of apartment towers flanked a torn-up side street. Also lining the road were cherry trees in bloom, their white blossoms in an odd juxtaposition with the dirt and construction around them.
After I picked my way across the muddy stretch between the exit and Oryudong-gil (오류동길) I climbed up a derelict set of stairs running parallel to the sidewalk, at the top of which a neighborhood of some simple homes perched, a couple ajummas tending a garden plot in front of one. From there, with heavy machinery pounding out rhythmically in the background, I was able to look out and get a slightly wider view of the area, which revealed a neighborhood with construction nearly everywhere. A wide swath southeast of the station, extending from past where I’d come out of Exit 1 to beyond Exit 3 (also zonking you in the middle of a construction site) was ripped up and bare. Exit 2 actually put you on pavement, but night next to it, separated from the sidewalk by construction fencing, a round, spiraling concrete structure covered in scaffolding and blue netting was going up, presumably a parking ramp.
Beyond all that busyness I could see across to Gaeung Mountain (개웅산) – big hill, really – and the pavilion sitting atop it. With apparently very little else of interest in the neighborhood that became my goal for the stop.
Before trying to make my way there, however, I wanted to check out the immediate surroundings a bit more, and so I headed back down and northwest up Oryudong-gil, through a neighborhood of modest homes, schools, and small businesses, where the only chain stores that I saw were convenience stores. More serious construction was visible at the corner of Oryunam-gil (오류남길) or Seohaean-ro (서해안로) (depending on whether you go by the station’s neighborhood map or what was on the actual street sign), where the road, which currently forms a T-junction, running north, was being extended to continue across Oryudong-gil to the south. Also on the corner, on the north side, was a large pit where something or other had gotten torn down and was now just a big hole where piles of concrete rubble, steel pipes, and sunshine-yellow burlap sheeting lay strewn about. All of this made it seem as if someone had decided to just scrap the entire neighborhood and start from scratch.
Back at the station, I walked northeast from Exit 2, trying to find the road that would take me up the hill to the pavilion, but I ran into an utterly predictable problem: construction. A large area at the base of the mountain was walled off for where a development of apartment towers would go in, and the road that looked like the most likely candidate to lead up the hill had been, for the moment anyways, turned into just a big swath of dirt.
Gaeung Mountain (개웅산)
Exit 2 (ehhh…maybe)