Apologies for the delay in posting folks! This is entirely my (Liz’s) fault as I have skipped town, actually the whole country to go on what is already proving to be an epic, albeit rainy trip around the world. I have been a little wrapped up in traveling and getting my accompanying new solo blog project started -which is loads more time consuming without a wonderful blog partner like Charlie! I have a few more stops for Seoul Suburban up my sleeve (that I’m finally editing in a rainy Cambodia) before a new fabulous photographer will begin working with Charlie in Seoul. Feel free to follow my adventure around the world at ThisKentuckyGirl.com in addition to Seoul Sub→Urban! Thanks so much! Liz
It may only be one stop down the line from the recently visited Gupabal, but Yeonsinnae feels worlds away. Namely, it feels like you’re in Seoul. Taxis line up on the street, music jumps out of cell phone stores, people nurse lattes and free wifi in cafes. Step off the main street and you enter neighborhoods of bars and restaurants and then small apartment buildings a bit further back.
The neighborhood pulse beats strongest at Yeonseo Market (연서시장), which begins just outside of Exit 2 and runs along the sidewalk on Yeonseo-ro (연서로) for several hundred meters below the canopy formed by the awnings leaning out from the small shops on one side and the even smaller temporary stalls on the other. The latter are almost exclusively the preserve of sturdy ajummas, perched on milk cartons set into the small recesses at the center of the mounds of produce surrounding them. More old women were serving up snack food, a butcher used a headset microphone to call out the day’s specials, and a pair of twin 10-year old girls walked past me wearing matching glasses and matching eye patches over their left eyes. (Is it just me, or does it seem as though Koreans suffer from a preponderance of eye injuries/infections?)
Toward the market’s far end an old man in a wide-brimmed farmer’s hat was tying up bunches of garlic and setting them on the sidewalk and they, man and garlic both, were covered in dirt as though they’d just arrived from the field. Nearby, a group of ajummas were sitting together on the sidewalk, chatting and cutting and sorting a pile of herbs while an adjacent truck selling fish pumped some incredibly annoying trot music out of its sound system.
Not far from the station exit, a very old white sign arches over a side street announcing ‘연서시장.’ (Relatively) new blue letters have been added to it, though you can still see the outlines of the old ones where the dirt and grime have settled in less permanently. Close to the sign you can sneak down an alley into the adjacent building and find yourself in the midst of the market food court, reminiscent of market eateries in China or Vietnam in its mustiness and feel of making do with what one has. It was warm inside from all the cooking being done, and bare bulbs hung from the ceiling, illuminating menus listed on wood or plastic boards. Naturally, it was mostly older people who were sitting on the benches next to golden piles of jeon or small pyramids of jokbal, downing makkeolli as steam rose up in front of them.
While maybe not technically part of the market, the sidewalk running down the opposite side of Yeonseo-ro could be confused for one, with its wide assortment of stuff for sale dashed along the sidewalk: dried herbs, cheap jewelry, make-up, grilled chicken skewers, fresh tofu, animal print stretch pants for the undiscerning ajumma. I walked past the tables and racks and tarps that held these things after hooking around from Exit 3, while Bukhan Mountain (북한산) served up a noble backdrop to it all. A quick dip into the backstreets didn’t turn up much, but I did catch a glimpse of a deliveryman heading home on his moped, his daughter wedged into the narrow space between dad and the dashboard and his son riding in the delivery box in the back.
Back at the same exit, I walked straight down Tongil-ro (통일로) on a stretch of the road that was lined mostly with chain clothing and shoe stores, but just after the Mizuno shop I saw a sign on the sidewalk advertising an academy on the third floor of the adjacent building. It was for 백락 Accordion, and below a photo of a kind but serious-faced guy with an accordion on his lap was the tagline ‘Anyone can learn.’ I suppose that in a city the size of Seoul it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that someone, somewhere in the metropolis played the instrument, but it struck me with the sort of bemusement that someone offering janggu lessons in Milwaukee would.
The opposite side of the street had quite a few more clothing stores, and there was an empty lot where a shiny new glass tower would be going in, pointing in the direction that Yeonsinnae was going. Not in too much of a hurry, though. A guy on the sidewalk was busy grinding away at a steel beam with a belt sander, causing sparks to fly all over and pedestrians to scurry to the edge of the road. But, whatever, you know? And just outside Exit 4 an ajumma was selling puffed rice bar snacks in mountainous quantities and noshing on a bowlful while waiting for customers, violating rule number four of the Ten Crack Commandments: ‘Never get high on your own supply.’
If you’re in the Yeonsinnae area and have kids, you might want to take them to the Daejo Children’s Park (대조어린이공원), a short left on Yeonseo-ro-24-gil (연서로24길), south of the station via Exit 5. They’ll have plenty of playmates, as the place was crawling with kids, and plenty to do. There’s all of the expected playground equipment, a huge sandbox, and a wall mural with tiles of kids’ artwork. In a whimsical and potentially saliva-inducing touch, park equipment is done up in a breakfast theme: benches are sausages, the clock tower is a fork stuck in a frankfurter, and a group of girls were using the yolk of a fried egg as a drawing table, the skillet that had just slid it out tipped up behind them. Keeping an eye on everything was a pair of retirees, clad in matching red mesh vests and caps, working as volunteer supervisors.
Those without children will probably prefer to head past the string of pojangmachas outside of Exit 6 to the adjacent side streets where quite a few bars and restaurants make up Yeonsinnae’s modest nightlife area, the pungent smell of fried chicken adding the finishing touch.
Just across from it and from the exit is the triangular Water and Light Park (물빛공원). Wedged between roads, it had been transformed, at least for the day, into something of a flea market. People were selling shoes, books, hats, and underwear, and at tables set up in front of a small stage, shoppers picked through a large pile of pants and skirts.
The ‘water’ part of the park’s title is presumably taken from the fountain in the southwest corner, but it hadn’t yet been turned on for the summer when I visited. For the moment the ledge around its basin was serving as a spot for local retirees to relax, and they were joined in their pursuit elsewhere in the park by other seniors and by families pausing from shopping for an ice cream break.
Yeonseo Market (연서시장)
Daejo Children’s Park (대조어린이공원)
Left on Yeonseo-ro-24-gil (연서로24길)
Water and Light Park (물빛공원)