After taking a good break the day before by allowing ourselves to relax and do nothing much other than shopping and eating a lot, we were all refreshed and ready to take on another day of sightseeing within Seoul!
[Korea September/October 2014]
3rd Oct 2014 – Day 8
Ihwa Mural Village & Namdaemun
We started our day bright and early only to realise that it was National Foundation Day 개천절, a national holiday in South Korea, and most of the eateries around our apartment are taking a day’s break! But that did not stop us anyway! We filled ourselves with whatever we could find and proceeded with the planned itinerary for the day!
Ihwa Mural Village 이화벽화마을
Located in Ihwa-dong within Jongno-gu, you will be able to find a similar mural village to that of Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan. Anyway, Ihwa Mural Village started in year 2006 when the local Public Art Committee carried out a project together with 60 artists to paint the walls of the houses in the village with beautiful wall murals and installed other art pieces to improve the local environment.
Just for your information, the town around Hyehwa Station is actually home to theaters, galleries, museums, unique cafes and restaurants and pretty much everything else you can relate to with art. And I guess that explains the perky looks of the town. Very unique, don’t you think? 🙂
Never mind the festival or the crowd, we began our walk to Ihwa Mural Village without further ado. It should take you under 10 minutes worth of slow walking to see the first marker, provided you aren’t shopping along the way like what we were doing. Hehe!
This yellow man or cat or whatever we should call this is creature is one of the most popular wall mural you get to see in the photos of most people who visited the village as it is actually considered an important marker for you to find your way to the mural village!
And then you shall rejoice because after the sighting of this particular wall mural, you are halfway there already!
This is one of the many ways that can lead you into the heart of Ihwa Mural Village and coincidentally also the same flight of stairs where Se-na (played by Korean actress and singer, Krystal) slid down in one of the episodes in the drama, My Lovely Girl!
In other news, Ihwa Mural Village is a popular filming location and was also featured in other Korean dramas and movies. So if you are a fan of Korean dramas, you might find some of the areas in this village very familiar!
We took a right turn when we arrived at the top of the flight of the stairs so this really left me wondering if it is just a random wall mural or you can really find some snacks and drinks if you were to follow the wall mural and head left. Hmmm…
Anyway, this was a really popular wall mural and we had to queue quite a while just to get a picture with it! It was also quite embarrassing to have everyone in the queue trying to hurry you with those killer stares while you pose that I just have to keep telling myself that it is fine to take my time and pose any how I want to because no one knows me in Korea! Haha!
One very happening alley with quite a number of wall murals around the corner before the flight of steps! Very entertaining to try and pose with each and every one of them actually! Scroll down to see how silly we and everyone else would get at this alley!
Anyway, Ihwa Mural Village and its alleys filled with all the fun and beautiful wall murals and art installations are very much still an active residential village! So shhh… Please keep your volume down while you are there!
By the way, that sign reads 이화동대장간 which translates as Ihwa-dong Smith. So if I am not wrong, you will be able to find a black smith’s house or museum or something along that line if you follow that arrow!
After all that walking, we finally found a bench to sit down and take a break! But it is just that it is not exactly a bench and it was actually quite challenging to cross our legs, let alone just sitting on it! Haha ok, before you get more confused… That bench is a 3D wall mural and we actually have to do a half squat to look like we are sitting on it!
Imagine lodging in a guesthouse located right smack in the middle of Ihwa Mural Village! I can already envision a very fun stay just like how colorful and joyful the village is! By the way, anyone here stayed at Rose and Candy Guesthouse before? How was it? 🙂
And this is about all that we saw when we spent our afternoon at Ihwa Mural Village. The village is really colorful and cheery and the wall murals are actually quite interactive in their own way. There is so much more explore but it just so happen to be a day when I am not keen on getting lost at all. So this sums up our adventure at Ihwa Mural Village!
Map on how to get to Ihwa Mural Village as well as the location of the mentioned wall murals too. Click for an enlarged view!
Sungshin Women’s University Shopping Street
It is probably a known fact that there will be a sizable shopping area (if not, even just one street) near the vicinity of any given university in Korea where you will be able to find some really good shopping deals. So when we were done at Ihwa Mural Village, we hopped a couple of stations over Sungshin Women’s University since we were just so nearby.
And we managed to find one pedestrianized shopping street located just outside of Exit 1 at Sungshin Women’s University station! It was really quite happening and I like how the street was quite spacious as compared to some others we had been to thus far. However, the shopping and food choices there were skewed towards a slightly younger crowd, say probably around high school ages, although it was in close proximity with the university and we could only give up and move on to our last stop for the day.
Namdaemun Market 남대문시장
Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea that you can ever find. And opened in 1964, it was already a one-stop place for a good variety of products sold at affordable or wholesale prices up till today. And by ‘good variety’, I actually meant that you can find things like apparels, kitchenware, furnitures, electronics, fresh produce and so on!
No doubt the market is large, carries anything and everything you ask for and a big bulk of them comes with hefty wholesale discounts but our experience with this market lasted less than 30 minutes. We probably survived squeezing through 2 streets and gave up very quickly on the place after getting multiple elbows in our faces and spine and not forgetting the part when the people in the market were really yelling at the top of theirs right beside your ears!
And in case your thoughts get skewed because of what I said, you probably should do a little more search about Namdaemun Market. Perhaps someone else has a better suggestion as to when is a better timing to visit the market or a specific area you can check out but I am keeping my experience as a really unpleasant one!
By the way, you can get more information on Namdaemun Market on their official website!
Namdaemun 남대문 (Gate of Exalted Ceremonies)
After we quick walk through Namdaemun Market, we hopped over to check out the the first designated National Treasure of South Korea, Namdaemun, that is located in close proximity!
Officially known as Sungnyemun 숭례문, this historic pagoda-style gateway is one of the eight gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty. It was first built in 1398 and rebuilt in 1447 during the 29th year of King Sejong the Great’s reign.
The gate was actually the oldest wooden structure you can find in Seoul until it was severely damaged by arson in year 2008. Then it went through restoration for five years and officially reopened to public in May 2013!
This gate was once one of the three major gateways through Seoul’s city walls back in the Joseon Dynasty. And somehow I imagined myself teleported back to the olden days when I walk through the gates! Silly me! Haha!
With that, it marks the end of our 8th day in Korea! Anyway, do stay tune for the following post where I cover Day 9 when we spent an afternoon in yet another popular shopping district in Hongdae and also checking out the ever popular Weekend Free Market there!
More posts from Korea September/ October 2014 travelogue series:
- Day 1 – Seomyeon Shopping District, Gwangalli Beach & Gwangan Bridge
- Day 2 – Gamcheon Culture Village, Jagalchi Market, BIFF Square, Gukje Market & Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street
- Day 3 – Shinsegae Centum City, Haedong Yonggungsa & Jong-ga Daebak Jib
- Day 4 – KTX Busan to Seoul & Myeongdong
- Day 5 – Gwangjang Market, Bukchon Hanok Village (Samcheong-dong) & Insa-dong
- Day 6 – Edae Shopping District
- Day 7 – Gangnam and Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil
- Day 8 – Ihwa Mural Village and Namdaemun
- Day 9 – Hongdae (Hongik University Street)
- Day 10 – Hangang Park
- Day 11 – Bupyeong (Incheon) and Cheonggyecheon (Seoul)
- Day 12 & 13 – Flashback and Goodbye Korea (for now)!