July 01, 2012

Inch by Incheon

Quite a few of Seoul's neighboring cites are connected to it via the region's extensive subway and light rail network, making intracity travel easy and affordable. I caught a train to Incheon one morning, Korea's third largest city with a population of 3 million. Famous for its international airport and being Korea's first designated free economic zone, Incheon also has the only official Chinatown in the country.

The familiar red and gold painted structures of Chinatown were located across the street from the train terminus. I explored the colourful bylanes and visited some colonial buildings and art galleries. The Chinese restaurants seem to be very popular with the Seoul weekend crowd, as each restaurant had long queues at lunchtime. Not overly interested in standing in line in the midday heat, I filled my stomach with tasty street food. This was followed up with some refreshing bubble tea, which is exceedingly rare to come across in this nation of coffee lovers.

Jayu Park, the oldest "Western style" park in Korea, is located on a hill near Chinatown. I ascended several flights of stairs to find out what a "Western style" park was. It was a public park like those found in Chinese cities, and not a private garden to be enjoyed exclusively by the royals. Children run through water fountains and couples wearing matching apparel walk hand in hand along the winding paths. Unlike Chinese parks though, elderly folk do not dance in unison to loud music to keep fit and maintain a sense of community.

Jayu Park features a large statue of General Douglas MacArthur and another monument celebrating one hundred years of friendship among the United States and South Korea. During the Korean War, Macarthur famously landed UN forces in Incheon behind North Korean lines. He recaptured Seoul within a few weeks, changing the momentum of a war that was swinging heavily in North Korea's favour until then. My final stop was the boardwalk at Wolmido, a short bus ride away. It is a place where families come to enjoy sunshine and raw fish amidst a carnival atmosphere.


"Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would yield every honor which has been accorded by war." - General Douglas MacArthur