INCHEON – Point out Incheon and most of the people will simply consider South Korea’s foremost air gateway, Incheon Worldwide Airport.
That could be a disgrace, as a result of Incheon has a lot extra simply ready to be found.
This sprawling west-side coastal metropolis is the nation’s third largest metropolis and flanked by 168 islands.
As Incheon was the purpose of entry when the once-isolated Korean Peninsula first opened as much as international retailers in 1883, it turned the earliest to develop into modernised and boasts many firsts, resembling the primary trendy park, designed by a Russian, and the primary Western-style resort.
The Chinese language left indelible footprints right here. Incheon is house to South Korea’s solely official Chinatown, the place the ever-present jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce) was first created and shot to world fame, pushed by the facility of Okay-dramas.
For vacationers, Incheon shall be a mixture of outdated and new, and you may see how exterior influences have formed the town with out rocking its uniquely Korean core.
Listed here are 4 locations to go to, every full of enjoyable issues to do, together with a style of Okay-style paradise.
1. Open port road: Nostalgia and noodles
Start your journey from Incheon station, the beginning place of the Korean railway and the oldest station within the Seoul metropolitan space.
There’s a nostalgic attraction about this station, because it nonetheless seems the identical because it did when it first opened in 1899.
A stone’s throw away is Gaehangjang-gori (Open Port Road), the outdated quarters of the town.
Chinatown is unmistakable with its crimson and gold paifang (conventional Chinese language gate) and many individuals flock right here on weekends to take pleasure in genuine Chinese language meals, however lesser recognized is a Japanese road and an enclave stuffed with fairy-tale characters.
You may discover on foot, however I discover it quicker and extra enjoyable to hitch an electrical automobile tour that may take you round to the principle sights in about 50 minutes.
The automobile is designed to appear to be a automobile from the nineteenth century. A pleasant information will clarify the various historic icons of the realm and make it easier to take photos on the most photogenic spots.
You may ebook immediately at a small container sales space outdoors Incheon station, however it will be wiser to order on-line to ensure an English-speaking information.
On Viator.com, it prices US$45 (S$61) for a three-seater automobile and US$60 for five-seater.
Since you’re going on a experience by historical past, how about renting some classic outfits to match?
Kyeongseong Boutique (also referred to as Jang Boutique) is certainly one of many clothes rental shops within the space that sprang up after the vintage-photography development took off three years in the past. It was impressed by the 2018 drama, Mr Sunshine, which was set within the early 1900s.
You may gown up like characters from the drama or decide one thing from the racks of vibrant clothes. Two hours of rental price 25,000 received (S$27.60) and ladies get an identical hair accent and bag, whereas males get a hat.
The tour will take you thru Chinatown’s eating places and road snacks (assume bing tang hu lu, or candied fruit on a stick). Overseas retailers lived on this neighbourhood till it fell into disrepair within the Nineteen Seventies.
Songwol-dong Fairytale Village was born in 2014 when the federal government stepped in with an city renewal mission.
Now, it’s a place the place Western story characters resembling Alice in Wonderland, Little Mermaid and Snow White come to life in vibrant work and wall murals, with an occasional Korean people hero too.
Simply bear in mind there are folks residing inside these Instagrammable partitions, so strive to not disturb them.
The following cease is Jayu Gongwon, or Freedom Park. Sitting properly on the prime of a 69m-tall hill, that is South Korea’s first trendy park, designed by Russian architect Afanasy Seredin-Sabatin.
The height gives spectacular views of the ocean and port space and, in mid-April, you get to stroll by stunning cherry blossom bushes in full bloom.
The tour will even take you to Jemulpo Membership, the place foreigners would socialise within the 1900s; and a really majestic hanok or Korean conventional home, the place former Incheon mayors used to stay.
Survey mural partitions depicting Chinese language historical past – Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, anybody? – the architectural vestiges of a Japanese settlement, and a resort that was South Korea’s first Western-style lodging.
The information can take you again to Chinatown or drop you off at a pleasant cafe with nice views of the port space.
Earlier than leaving, savour some jajangmyeon. Whereas the unique Chinese language zhajiangmian is brown, Korea’s noodle dish is an inkier, sweeter model as caramel is added.
Restaurant Gonghwachun created its first jajangmyeon in 1905 and nonetheless sells it as we speak (11,000 received a bowl), whereas the neighbouring Yeongyeong innovated and got here up with a uncommon white jajangmyeon (9,000 received a bowl).
When you can’t determine, strive each.
You can too go to the close by Jajangmyeon Museum (1,000 received for adults, free for kids) to learn the way the noodle advanced over time – from an affordable meal for Chinese language labourers to a dish effectively liked by all Koreans.
2. Ganghwado: island of thrills
Ganghwado is likely one of the largest islands in South Korea, linked to Incheon by a 780m-long bridge. It makes a terrific weekend getaway for Seoulites, and vacationers also can simply discover the island by automobile.
I’ve come to affiliate the island with thrills because it boasts the longest luge course in Asia and what my 12-year-old daughter calls “the perfect zipline ever”.
The luge at Ganghwa Seaside Resort overlooks the ocean, so the perfect time to go to could be earlier than 5pm, when the hill and waters begin to glisten within the night solar.
There are two 1.8km-long programs to select from – the extra mild and scenic ocean course, and the steeper valley course for thrill-seekers.
Tickets embody a gondola experience as much as the height. I counsel getting three rides (30,000 received or S$36 on weekdays, 38,000 received on weekends) as one (15,000 received on weekdays, 19,000 received on weekends) is unquestionably not sufficient.
For the zipline, head to Tianlim Lesports Park. It’s a great spot for household bonding and enjoyable because it gives a spread of actions from ziplining and electrical karts (say goodbye to the pungent odor of gasoline burning in standard go-karts) to rock-climbing and a laser-tag survival problem.
My daughter loves the zipline as it’s not only one however 5 programs, so that you get your cash’s value.
Additionally present in Ganghwado are a few of the prettiest cafes in Incheon, together with Joyang Bangjik. This was the primary textile manufacturing unit in South Korea, deserted after which reborn as one of many largest and most uncommon themed cafes within the nation.
The house owners have retained the commercial really feel of the manufacturing unit whereas jazzing up each nook with retro decor and upcycled gadgets. An outdated iron turns right into a doorknob, whereas an outdated stitching machine turns into a eating desk.
Nostalgia was within the air, as outdated telephones, movie cameras, typewriters and extra took me again to my childhood.
3. Wolmido: retro enjoyable, shellfish galore
Wolmido is likely one of the finest locations in Incheon to look at the solar set. It was a resort island, however is now joined to the mainland after sea reclamation.
You will get right here simply by taking the Wolmi Sea Practice, a sightseeing monorail that runs from Incheon Station.
Youngsters will revel on the sight of 4 mini theme parks – the Uncle Ringo kind with a retro really feel to them. We rode the enduring 115m-tall Ferris wheel hoping to benefit from the sundown, however the solar disappeared earlier than hitting the horizon, as a consequence of clouds and fog.
Nonetheless, it was pretty to walk alongside Wolmido’s foremost sea-facing road earlier than nightfall. Seafood eating places and cafes line the road, which can also be stuffed with buskers, artists and teams of individuals belting out their favorite retro tunes and dancing alongside.
For dinner, I like to recommend the grilled shellfish Incheon is known for. You will get a giant platter of clams, cockles, scallops and oysters for about $60 and grill them your self.
Within the hotter months, you possibly can go clam-digging on the mudflats.
4. Paradise metropolis: built-in resort
The final cease on my listing is Paradise Metropolis – South Korea’s model of Marina Bay Sands.
The European-themed built-in resort is only a brief drive from Incheon Worldwide Airport, making it a great stopover in case you have just a few hours to kill.
To completely benefit from the resort, get a bundle that features a evening’s keep, breakfast and tickets to its two key sights – indoor theme park Wonderbox and Korean spa Cimer. Costs begin at 380,000 received (S$418) earlier than tax.
You probably have 20 million received to spare, ebook an evening’s keep on the luxurious pool villa that’s touted as “paradise” within the fashionable actuality courting present Singles Inferno (2021 to 2022). Certainly, you might be pampered to the heavens right here.
Cimer is arguably South Korea’s finest jjimjilbang – a mix of a spa and a sauna. It contains a trendy aqua zone for swimming, a bathhouse the place you possibly can soak in sizzling tubs and get a Korean-style physique scrub by which your complete physique is buffed with an exfoliating fabric, and warmth remedy rooms boasting totally different well being advantages.
Even my daughter loves spending time right here, sipping an ice-cold sikhye (a candy rice beverage just like barley) and chilling within the cooler remedy rooms.
At Wonderbox, carnival music is within the air and dazzling media artwork is built-in with amusement rides resembling a merry-go-round, two large slides and “Comfortable Swing”. You can too strive a sky-trail stroll up within the air, capturing cans and balloons, and goofing round in entrance of humorous mirrors.
Paradise Metropolis, which hosted one of many nights I stayed, is child-friendly, providing an indoor playground for teenagers, an arcade and even a bowling alley with small balls made for tiny palms.
Adults can take pleasure in tremendous eating at its posh eating places, strive their hand on the foreigners-only on line casino or roam freely and admire a few of the 2,500 work and artwork items on show right here.
For instance, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s iconic large pumpkin sculpture is the centrepiece within the foyer, under a chandelier-like set up by Korean artist duo Mioon.