안녕하세요: Chinatown, Incheon


Back for another post on my visit to Incheon on Christmas Eve last year!

So this is a continuation from my trip to Songdo International City (right here). After spending about half a day in the modern city, I took Incheon Line 1 Subway from Campus Town Station to Bupyeong Station, where as mentioned before lies a mega underground shopping centre that is extremely well-liked by the locals, and changed to Seoul Line 1 Subway to get to Incheon, the terminal station. I know that sounds like a really long ride and it looks like one too when you refer to the subway map of Seoul, but in actual fact the journey took less than an hour since they are all within Incheon anyway. Then again Incheon is bigger than Singapore hmm...

Immediately upon exiting the station, you will notice a Tourist Information Centre on your left. I'd recommend grabbing a brochure, which was what I did since I haven't done much research on the place before I woke up, grabbed my bag and went on my way, only researching while I was travelling on the train. The brochure definitely came in handy in knowing the various attractions around the place. Not that it would be difficult finding our way, since right across the street from the train station stands the Junghwaga Gate which will lead you straight into Incheon Chinatown.

I might sound a little silly, but I was really excited at that point of time while I was just across the road. Frankly, I still find it hard to believe a scaredy cat like me actually went to so many places on my own just not so long ago. It is almost too good to be true.

Incheon Chinatown was founded when the Chinese started venturing into Incheon since the opening of its port in 1883 and subsequently settled in this area. Along the streets today, you'd see Korean-Chinese sellers, who not only speak fluent Chinese but also dress and behave like Chinese. There are also countless Chinese eateries in this place, for visitors to enjoy the most authentic Jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles) alongside other Chinese cuisines. Our traditional mooncakes can be found here too!

Referring to the map above, upon reaching the end of the main street where one can go right to continue on Jjajangmyeon Street, up the stairs to get to Seollinmun Gate or turn left to get out of Chinatown. I took the last option, because that would lead me to the Fairy Tale Village that was created with ten themes from the world of fairy tales from the paths of Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz to our all-time favourite Cinderella and Snow White! No effort was spared to turn this simple neighborhood into a real Far Far Away Kingdom.

Because life, always needs a dose of fairy tale..

After I was done checking out with the fairyland, I went back to the same intersection and this time, took the stairs up to Seollinmun Gate and Chohanji Mural Street depicting the essential scenes of "Legend of Chu and Han" (楚汉之争). Situated further up the stairs is Jayu Park, the first western-style modern park in Korea designed by a Russian civil engineer and developed in 1888. It is also where the Korean-USA Centennial Monument as well as the Statue of General McArthur, the hero of the Incheon Landing Operation during the Korean War, were constructed.

Going down from the other side of the park nearer to the Statue of General McArthur, there is another mural street, this time on Samgukji to present the stories of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zhuge Liang as in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" (三国志), as well as the famous stairs at the Qing and Japan Concession Sites. The stairs served as a boundary between the two sites and if you were to look closely at the picture, you'd notice that the design of the stairs is Japanese on one side, and Chinese on the other.

And this brings us to the Open Port! Well it is not exactly a "port" from what I saw while I was there, but it was what the area is called. See the red banner in the picture below - "Welcome to Open Port".

Apparently, this area before it turned into a international city upon its port opening in 1883 used to be a fishing village (hmm, sounds like Singapore), and thus the Cultural Center of the Open Port Area was set up to feature the dynamic cultural facilities and landscape with more than 130 years of history. In any case, it was freezing at that time and I needed to figure out where I was going without sacrificing my hands to the cold air so I went into a cafe, Pot-R which is right beside the church you see in the map.

They are famous for their honey castella *superb*

The place was so comfy (and warm), I didn't want to leave but still... I have too many places I haven't drop by and there wasn't much time left since it was winter and the sky turns dark extremely early. So let's continue our exploration!

Incheon Open Port Museum (Formerly, First Bank of Japan)

Saw this cat attacking a pigeon at Daebul Hotel Site. It was quite a scary scene with feathers flying everywhere. I thought the bird was dead for sure, but it actually managed to escape when the cat was not paying attention.

Fans of Dream High will recognise Incheon Art Platform, where scenes outside Kirin Art School were filmed. The place used to be a a storage facility used by the Incheon Port during the open port period, but has been transformed into a cultural space where artworks of young artists are exhibited in the creative studios, workshops, performance halls, exhibition halls and other facilities.

Extra large plate of Jjajangmyeon

Korean-Chinese Cultural Center

Baendaengi Street, right of Chinatown's front entrance

According to what was presented in the Jjajangmyeon Museum, Jjajangmyeon was conceived by Gonghwachun, one of the Chinese restaurants built during the opening of the Incheon Port in 1883, to allow workers to take their meals easily. Initially just noodles with stir-fried black bean sauce, black caramel was later on added to suit the Koreans' taste and hence the birth of the uniquely Korean Jjajangmyeon. You'd get to see a set constructed based on the interior of Gonghwachun in the museum too.

And these were what I did and where I went when I visited Chinatown last Christmas Eve! I then had Jjajangmyeon (what else?!) for dinner at one of the restaurants before returning home early. Boring I know, since most people would probably be gathered at places like Itaewon for a huge party. But it was okay for me I guess, since sleep is always my top priority lol. Furthermore, I needed sufficient rest because I was to meet up with my former colleagues from Esplanade, Doris and Joan extremely early the next day, for a Christmas trip to Jeonju, where the best bibimbap in Korea is! Stay tuned ^.^

Loving my housemates for the Christmas Tree and surprise pressie!

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