What’s most striking about the area around Bangi Station is how green it is, at least by Seoul standards. Nearly every street in the neighborhood is tree-lined, numerous walls are covered with ivy, and despite the presence of some very large roads there’s far less of the concrete jungle feeling you get in other parts of town. Lack of green space in Seoul is an oft-bemoaned fact, though I suspect it’s harder to establish – and balance with the existing infrastructure, economy, and local demands – than we often presume, particularly in a place like this where available land is scarce. In any case, it’s obvious that the city or the Songpa-gu council or whoever it is that makes these decisions has put a lot of thought into ways they could make the Bangi neighborhood greener and more livable.
You’ll notice this right away if you step out Exit 2 or 3, where something on the area map called The Best View Point (우수조망명소 (내부순화로실개천)) is located. It’s not a view point at all; instead it’s a strip about ten meters wide between the sidewalk and the adjacent apartment blocks that runs along Nambusunhwa-ro (남부순화로) all the way from the station to Ogeum-ro (오금로). In that strip is an artificial rock-lined brooklet, no more than a foot wide, tucked at the bottom of a small embankment packed with shrubs, groundcover, a few flowers (blue, orange, lavender), long grasses, and small trees, behind which are two rows of full-size trees.
Behind the rows of trees are shaded walking paths if you prefer to walk without having to look at all the traffic, though you’ll still certainly hear it. (PSA for the ladies: If you’re wearing heels, use the path on the east side, out Exit 2. It’s paved, while the west side path, out Exit 3, is not and can get fairly muddy, especially this time of year.) The View Point isn’t particularly big, but it’s a terrific example of making good use of the space you have and is, to be honest, quite lovely. Stone blocks dot the sidewalk if you feel like stopping to stare.
Mr. Lee, a lovely volunteer who will walk through the park with you. (At least he did with Liz when she was there.) He is equally informative and charming, especially when he wishes he was younger to ask for your hand in marriage.
If you take the path from Exit 3 all the way to Ogeum-ro and then swing a right, a short walk will take you to the Bangi-dong Ancient Baekje-era Tombs (방이동백제고분군), Historic Site No. 270. According to the sign at the entrance, these eight tombs were discovered in 1975 when the area was being developed; eight years later the tombs were reconstructed and the area turned into a park. The tombs are in the form of tumuli, familiar to anyone who’s visited Gyeongju (though on a much smaller scale), and each consists of a square or rectangular chamber and corridor constructed on top of a stone base. The interiors of some had vaulted ceilings and coffin platforms. Most of the tombs had been robbed long before their discovery, but some mounted blue-gray stoneware dishes and jars were recovered. This stoneware was thought to date to the Baekje period (18 BCE-660), hence the name, though it is now believed that the tombs themselves aren’t quite so old and date to the Unified Silla period (676-935).
Through the entrance is a grassy lawn dotted with trees that separates the two groups of tombs. To your left, four green domes sit on a hill in the northwest corner. You can peer into the first through some metal bars, though there’s not a whole lot to see – a low stone passageway to a slightly larger area with stones laid on the ground making a flattish bed. The grass on the other three tombs is neatly trimmed, but number one is a bit wilder and has a blue tarp weighed down with rocks and piles of dirt running over its top like a reverse Mohawk. A roped path runs around and between the tombs, and at the top of the hill are some benches where you can see the forested mountains to the southeast. Four more tombs sit on the southeast side of the park. While the casual visitor might come to see a bit of Korean history, it seems that the main purpose the park serves is to provide a place for middle-aged and elderly women to get their daily walk in.
From the tombs I walked northeast through the backstreets off Exits 3 and 4 through a leafy, peaceful neighborhood with a number of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, Italian food being especially popular.
Continuing in that direction, or going straight out of Exit 4, will bring you to the southeast corner of Olympic Park (올림픽공원) and the park’s Rose Plaza (장미광장), which sits in front of the big white bubble that is the Tennis Stadium (올림픽테니스장).
The flowers were a bit battered from the previous day’s heavy rain, but a number of families and couples were still out admiring, helped by the useful boards listing the names and pictures of the different flowers at a couple points around the perimeter. There are of course roses of every hue, as well as different types of flowers, but the most eye-catching thing in the plaza is ‘A Virtual Sphere’ (가상의 구), a huge orb of red and blue hanging tubes that looks like the Korean taegeuk without the curves.
Just west of the Rose Plaza and opposite the Olympic Convention Center (올림픽컨벤션센터) is the Wildflower Hill (들꽃마루). A dirt path runs around a small field of red wildflowers and grasses, and if you follow it to the top of the hill, where there’s a small pavilion, you can then stroll around the backside, where the flowers are more varied, here red, blue, pink, and lavender.
It’s quieter, more secluded, and altogether prettier than the plaza is, and with a thick screen of trees between it and the adjacent road you can almost, almost, trick yourself into thinking that you’re in a country meadow. If you’re looking to surprise your significant other with a special couple’s photo-op, you could hardly do better. My PSA #2 for the day. Lovers, you’re welcome.
The Best View Point (우수조망명소 (내부순화로실개천))
Exit 2 or 3
Bangi-dong Ancient Baekje-era Tombs (방이동백제고분군)
South on Nambusunhwa-ro (남부순화로), west on Ogeum-ro (오금로)
Olympic Park (올림픽공원), Rose Plaza (장미광장), and Wildflower Hill (들꽃마루)
North on Nambusunhwa-ro
Special thanks to 이재만 for inviting us to Bangi Station and giving us some tips on what to see and do.