Continuing our recent explorations of northeastern Seoul, this post brings us to Banghak Station, which is a bit inconspicuous on a backstreet just off Dobong-ro (도봉로). Exit 1 drops you off within sight of the main drag, and just outside the walls of the tracks are cheerfully painted with bright pictures of people riding the subway and going about their neighborhood business and of the nearby mountains. It’s the sort of thing that more stations should have.
My first order of business was to check out the New Dobong Market (신도봉시장), which I got to by crossing Dobong-ro and then turning left on Dobong-ro-153-gil (도봉로153길). Though not huge it was a fair bit more sizable than what is presumably the old Dobong Market, near Dobong Station. The collection of stores opened up onto the street was casually busy on the evening I stumbled by, passing a guy toasting sheets of kim above a griddle and an ajumma selling banchan. Another woman hawked fish underneath a large rusty arch bearing the market’s name at the top. The street got narrower as I kept following it, and the smell of fried chicken clung to the air. The stalls got closer together too, and their awnings almost turned the place into a covered market.
The rest of the neighborhood on the west side of Dobong-ro was a mix of semi-busy main streets and small, quiet alleys lined with the usual red brick apartments, some with blue, orange, or green faux tile roofs. The hulking Doseong Church (도성교회) looms over everything, but it didn’t have anything near the charm of another church I passed where a banner advertised 부침개 Day (Buchimgae Day), accompanied by a cartoon of a smiling Jesus frying up a batch of jeon.
As with at Dobong Station, the Jungnang Stream (중랑천) is just a short walk east, this time from Exit 2. You’ll pass a small grouping of restaurants, bars, shops, and noraebangs just outside; from there the stream is a right turn and a short walk down Dobong-ro-152-gil (도봉로152길). Although there were plenty of people out on the walking path or sitting on benches enjoying the weather, the stream here was even less inspiring than it was a bit further north. This was due to the fact that most of the eastern bank was under reconstruction – a long stretch of sand with a few rocks and three backhoes that had been put to rest for the night. That twilight was settling made things a bit more appealing, however, as the rising silver moon hung above the peaks to the east, and the setting sun sent up a pink umbra behind the mountains to the west as they deepened into navy.
The stream runs parallel to Madeul-ro (마들로), and as you walk south the neighborhood lights up a bit more, particularly around a three-way intersection where there’s a big Lotte Mart and the Dobong-gu District Office (도봉구천), a large tower with one round and one rectangular wing.
Further on, south and east from Exit 3, the neighborhood becomes just a collection of apartment complex towers, one after the other, with businesses – pizzerias, cafes, dry cleaners, hairdressers – ringing their first floors.
If you turn right after leaving Exit 3, instead of left, and go under a small underpass you’ll come across the neighborhood’s most bizarre building, the Noksan Church (녹산교회). This large, tan building looks like a normal office tower from about the seventh floor on up, but the bottom half contains a giant sea green barrel that had been built into the middle, like a football with its two ends chopped off, its double rows of windows at the top and bottom making it look like something that emerged from the Star Wars school of design. I’m not religious, but if I was I think I’d skip this joint and opt for the place where happy Jesus fries jeon.
New Dobong Market (신도봉시장)
Cross Dobong-ro (도봉로), left on Dobong-ro-153-gil (도봉로153길)
Jungnang Stream (중랑천)
Straight out of exit, right on Dobong-ro-152-gil (도봉로152길)