It’s a sleepy Saturday afternoon on a warm summer’s day. As we walked along the deserted roads in Seoul’s Heritage Village – few doors are open. No heads peep in curiosity or wait to be clicked. And yet, it makes perfect sense, to stick to the rules: no loudspeakers, hushed voices, and no secret photography. Bukchon Hanok, is as close as you can get, to Seoul’s past.
There are 8 recommended view points along the Bukchon Hanok walking trail. Direction boards and an area map is all it takes. And in case anyone forgot to warn you – a pair of strong legs.
It was our first walk in Seoul and I could already feel the pressure building on my calves. Changing multiple subway lines and climbing hills, is probably the reason, why most locals are incredibly fit. I was glad I wore my sneakers as we puffed up a steep slope. The road downhill, lead to the first view point of Changdeokgung Palace.
We continued walking along the road running parallel to the Palace. It was considerably cooler here. Except for an occasional whirr of a car, there was no one to be seen. One end of the bifurcation leads to a quaint alleyway, also the second view point – Arts and Crafts of Wonseo-dong, with stunning entrances. I wanted to knock. Get to know who stayed inside. Strike a traveller-sign conversation. But, better judgement prevailed and we continued further.
We passed by a public laundry site used by locals, back in the day, to wash clothes. Up a gentle slope and back to the parallel alley. The trick is, to care less of what point you’re seeing, on the map, and soak in whatever comes along your way.
After passing by many closed doors, we came across an open door. It was the erstwhile house of Korea’s first western-style artist, Go Hui-dong. An elderly lady, who doubled up as guide, showed us around. In broken English and sign language, she managed to communicate how handsome he was, and how Korea was one country in his paintings. We tried to brush our Korean greetings. But, I guess it was too early to get them right.
It was time to test those muscles again and reach the fourth view point – The Hill, No. 31, Gahoe -dong. I realised how unfit I was, when I saw elderly women, climb the steep slope without panting. No one mentioned hills at 5 minute intervals. It takes some time, to enjoy the vantage view, after the effort. Though – it’s worth it.
The best part of climbing a slope is – walking down. Another open door. Young women were getting their photos clicked in hanboks. The alley way was beautiful, although, it was difficult to get a shot without tourists. This was the fifth view point – Downhill Alley of Gahoe-dong.
It was nearing 4 PM and there was a steady rise of tourists. Bobbing heads and selfie addicts started dominating our frame. We reached the main street and crossed the road – in search of the sixth view. Narrow steps lead to circuitous slopes. It’s perfect to get lost. Cheery volunteers helped us stick to the route. Reaching the top is fantastic as it gives you a sneak view of the old against the new.
We skipped the Bukchon Observatory and started our descent downwards. En-route there are many quaint cafes – to enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul – along with a cup of coffee. Seoul’s addiction to coffee might require another post.
Entry Fee : Free Admission
Subway : Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2. A short walk will lead you to the tourist information centre, from where, you can pick-up your walking tour map.
Official Website : Bukchon Hanok Village