Column_June_1_Why I love..
While on a long travel, dropping by unexpected places for a short time sometimes provides lingering feelings. The road to Seoul from the Incheon International Airport always feels longer than the actual time taken due to expectations. How about taking a short break and starting your travel from here? If you visit this place with no information on it, you might get energized and smile all the way to the next destination. Then, shall we get off at a station along Subway Line No. 1 and take a tour of the surrounding areas?
Bucheon Jayu Market After getting off at Bucheon Station, if you walk toward Exit 3, you will see Nambu Plaza with grass at the center of the rotary. In the plaza is a wooden platform. The space seems to be used for small performances. A cat was taking a nap under a tree, so I could not approach the platform but just looked around the area.
When I looked to the right, I could see a sculpture — that is the entrance of Jayu Market. When I took a closer look at the sculpture, there was a description under it. It was a character in a cartoon called “Walsun Ajimae” meaning Lady Walsun. The cartoon ran for almost 47 years in the daily newspaper Jungang Ilbo. The sculpture was made to revitalize the market and energize the citizens. A middle-aged lady, who looked as gallant as the bronze statue next to the character sculpture, was selling coffee. I felt thirsty, so I ordered a glass of iced coffee. She did not put cream to my taste. The posture of stirring coffee with her thick hand looked very similar to the image of the character. The price was only 700 won. I could not believe what I heard. Do not be surprised. As you tour the market, you will witness more surprising scenes.
First of all, the traditional market seemed to be well-organized, providing a comfortable display of products, so I asked the owner of a clothing store located at the entrance of the market and found out that students of Bucheon University helped in the reorganization. Owing to the young sensibility, the overall atmosphere of the market felt refined and spacious. Most of all, the inside of the store looked more spacious than I thought. Correction — I should have said it felt longer. Maybe because of that, people tended to enter the store to shop, and some people were even carrying a carrier. Toward the entrance of the market, I saw more clothing stores and dishware stores. The scenes of the market looked very similar to those of Dongdaemun Market. Some merchants wearing tight pants were selling clothes while standing on a big pile of clothes, laughing loud and haggling over prices. The clothes featured flashy fabric, leopard prints, and bold pink — really splendid. Today in particular, I took many photos, focusing the lens of my camera on the ground. They commonly showed comfortable sandals, revealing toes. People touring the market might have felt as comfortable as the sandals.
As I was walking along, I heard a big “pop” sound, and I looked around by surprise and saw a machine puffing grains. We can usually hear this kind of familiar noise at Fifth-Day markets, but I was able to hear the sound at this market unexpectedly. The name was interesting as well: Pin-up Boy Puff. The store specialized in handmade Korean sweets and crackers. They were delicious, and the packaging boxes were pretty as well, so the store was very busy. I decided to enter further into the market. I started to see delicacies of the market. There were many kinds, so I did not need to worry about what to eat. You simply listen to what other passersby talk about. I could hear the word kkwabaegi (twisted bread stick) several times, so I followed the smell of baking bread and saw a long line in front of a store. Unfortunately, I saw only thin oil paper remaining in the wooden box when the line before me cleared. I saw a sign, saying 3 for 1,000 won, 2 of which are sticky rice doughnuts. It was only a little over 4pm, but we should have come earlier to taste the bread stick. Regretfully,
I decided to fill my stomach with something else. I saw a signboard with “2,000 won” in really large font. It was a noodle store, and the price was very cheap; it was selling cold soybean noodles as well. Inside the store were several 2-person tables, unlike other stores. It was probably for housewives who come alone to shop. I ate noodle soup and one roll of gimbap (4,000 won) and began my journey again. I saw hands roasting laver over charcoal fire, hands making tofu inside a store, hands pounding spicy red chill inside a mill… Maybe because they were all working energetically like Walsun Ajimae at the entrance of the market, but the foods were all delicious (most stores had tasting corners). A tripe house had a signboard printed with the owner’s name. When I imagined the owner probably working very hard to raise her children by selling tripe dishes, I got choked up a little. There was a tofu store that won recognition for its excellent tofu. I also saw fresh abalone. At the end of the market, I saw a little child. The baby’s mom was busy selecting goods at a store, so she seemed to have forgotten about her child. I kept watch over the baby for a short time while taking a few photos of the baby. I saw the baby looking at me vacantly, probably thanking me. A vintage pub was at the end of the market. At night, it is crowded with people who drop by after work and chat over things.
Bucheon is famous as “a city of cartoon.” From last month until October, it is posting on its homepage comic strips created using Bucheon markets as its theme(click here). How about visiting the homepage and getting information on famous stores in markets presented by cartoon characters to double the enjoyment of touring the market?
Rodeo Street If you walk toward Exit 3 of Bucheon Station, you will see Bukbu Plaza. After passing the plaza, you will get to “Sangsang (imaginary) Street” of the long Rodeo Street. Bukbu Plaza has a wooden floor. Maybe because of that, scorching heat did not come up from the ground, so I liked it a lot. I felt like walking on nature. I could see banners promoting various events, and preparations for the Bucheon BBoy International Championships (BBIC) are ongoing. The Campus Music Festival is to be held as well. I got a hot dog from one of the street vendors circling the plaza and looked around the surrounding area.
I witnessed a scene wherein people were gathering at the center of the plaza where the sound of music was heard. You should not miss this kind of place. In front of a foreign girl with blond hair wearing a light pink dress was a man in his 20s wearing an ear mic, talking after showing something. He was a magician. A few feet away, the girl’s father was taking a video. Curious people like me were gathering, and the magician made a pink line in front of the people. A stage was set up. When a little boy with a buzz cut who looked about 5 years old toddled across the boundary, the magician ran to the little boy and gave him a yellow card. From then on, everybody relaxed and started to enjoy the magic fully. In front of a big bag, he put a crank-in slate with the writing “Hello Stranger.” This reminded me of a movie. He put a long balloon into his mouth and asked a few people from the audience to come to the stage and presented several situations. He was an amateur magician who looked a little clumsy, but more people started to gather; it was a lot of fun. I realized that Bucheon is a city of art, and the place felt like a street for young people. The things the magician said at the last moment were very impressive. He told the people why he started magic. The main characters in movies seem to look happy, but he feels sad that people in the real world do not seem to feel that way. Our real magic will begin from now on, and we will get happier. He talked about these without using a mic but raised his voice for the audience to hear like a private soldier, so he probably got a big round of applause for that. After the show, the people left one by one.
Next, I went to Rodeo Street, which is also called “Sangsang (Imaginary) Street. I could see that many young people and stylish middle-aged ladies were enjoying shopping. There were various restaurants and bars where people could enjoy beer, including coffee shops and cartoon cafes for people to take a rest leisurely. As the lights were turned on one by one, many more people started to gather at this place. As I was walking, I saw a few art boxes. I stopped by to look around. I bought a notebook containing cartoon character paintings drawn by artist Jo Seok.
Cartoon Cafe When I looked up to the 3rd floor of a building across from the art box, I saw a yellow “Nolsoop” signboard and walked toward the building. “Nolsoop” sounded like a cartoon café that appeared in the recent TV drama Tomorrow with You. The filming location was at a different chain café but had the same interior, so I decided to drop by to feel a scene of the drama. Actually, I walked a lot in the market and desperately wanted to take a rest while enjoying a cartoon book, more so after I saw the cartoon characters of cartoonist Jo Seok.
On hot days, the best vacation place is a cartoon café equipped with a good air conditioner. You keep your shoes in a locker, give the key to the counter, and get a yellow card. The fees differ by hour or package, but you pay after using the service. I saw trees resembling a forest. I felt like reading a book in the forest. I took a nap for a while because I was tired. I took a few cartoons such as The Sound of Your Heart and Full House. I enjoyed the cartoon comfortably, laughing to the fullest as if I were in my own home. One thing that was missing in the café was foreign cartoon, but cartoons are the best textbook to learn the Korean language. One advantage of cartoons is that they can deliver contents through pictures only.
Along Rodeo Street is another famous cartoon café called “Jeuldabang,” meaning “enjoyable attic.” It operates 24 hours, and the interior resembles Do Min-joon’s study room in the popularly aired TV drama My Love from the Star. The café sells various snacks and beverages. It has cartoons as well as other books such as various genres of novels, travel, and self-help books and original movie novels. At the café, you can find writer Hur Young-man’s newest issue Sikgaek (The Grand Chef) as well. As I was reading the cartoon, I also learned how to enjoy touring traditional markets better. Afterward, I read the cartoon Gaksital (Bridal Mask) and took a photo of the novel Dokkaebi (Guardian). I watched the TV drama so I did not read the novel, but I took a photo because of the main character of the drama, Gong Yoo. You can see the popularity of this café from the colorful Post-Its on the walls across from the locker. For your information, fees are lower on weekdays. Owing to the special event period, I paid only 1000 won per hour and enjoyed a cool time away from the hot sun.
If you want to know more about Korean cartoons, I recommend “Korean Manhwa Museum.” It is located near Sangdong Station on Subway Line No. 7. You can see most of the Korean cartoons in one place. At the hanok (Korean traditional house) experience space, you can enjoy Korean traditional tea while looking out at a bamboo forest through a big window.
BuRodeo Street – Bucheon-ro, Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Bucheon Jayu Market – 33, Jayu-ro, Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi-do / +82-32-656-1892
Nolsoop – 24, Bucheon-ro 9beon-gil, Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi-do / +82-32-664-0309
Jeuldabang – 12, Buil-ro 460beon-gil, Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi-do / +82-70-7315-4380
Frorest Cartoon Trail (click here)