Chinatown is Incheon‘s top tourist draw. But, there’s a lot more interesting history, tucked away, from the main tourist street. Surrounded by dense vegetation or the sea (depending on which section of town you choose to explore); these sights are perfect to escape the sharp rays of the afternoon sun or loud tourist banter.
By the time, we were done viewing Samgukji Mural Street, the heat had taken a toll on us. We could have, either, head back to the main street for lunch or continued walking into a thick maze of towering trees. At that moment, we’d do anything to escape the heat, and we entered the woods.
Signboards indicated the benefits of a walk in the woods and locals seemed to agree. Although, in the afternoon, most of them chose a quiet spot, under the shade, and preferred to eat their lunch or spend time with their families/friends. Multiple pathways diverged into different directions. Although, the expanse of the woods isn’t very vast, on a first visit, the trails might seem to be confusing. Direction boards pointed towards the Korean-USA Centennial Monument and we climbed away from the trails into the centre.
The Korean-USA Centennial Monument
The Korean-USA Centennial Monument is an important symbol of strategic and diplomatic relations between Korea and America. In 1882, the first treaty was signed between, the two nations; highlighting peace, amity, commerce, and navigation. To mark the completion of a hundred years, of the signing of this historic treaty; in 1982, a commemorative monument was built at the site of Johnston’s resort villa.
Jayu (Freedom) Park
Leading away from the Centennial Monument, and into a wide expanse of open space, with enviable views of the port, lies Jayu Park. It was a contrast of sorts, with a cool sea breeze and the sun shining — at the same moment. The open space is also utilised as a performance and competition arena. It’s better to visit this section of the town in the evening. We tried to take in the view of the city, but the heat made it difficult to appreciate it.
Historically, this was the first park, in Korea (1888), to be designed using western elements of design. A Russian civil engineer, Afanasii Ivanovich Seredin-Sabatin, was the man behind the conceptual design of the park. Over the years, coinciding with Korea’s checkered past, the park changed names four times. It got its current name, after the statue of General MacArthur was completed, in 1957.
General MacArthur’s Statue
A narrow pathway, flanked on either side by beautiful blooms, leads towards General MacArthur’s statue. General MacArthur was responsible for the victory of 1950, after the South came under the attack of the communist North. As we made our way towards the statue, we saw an elderly man look up — with reverence — and salute the statue of the general. Honestly, it did seem a bit much, but we also realised, the importance of freedom is ingrained in the older generation. On the other hand, the younger visitors, were content taking selfies or posing with the statue.
The gardens had some of the brightest blooms that we’ve seen. I wish it was cooler and we could take a while to enjoy this burst of colour. We spent some time in a quiet shade, with elderly locals seeking respite from the heat, before retracing our path to the Centennial Monument.
We chose a random trail, to exit the woods, and ended up in Chohanji Mural street.
After lunch, we set in search of Fairy tale Village. I must’ve been tired, because I lead Basil back to the Centennial Monument (from the Songwol Church side entry) and argued that it was another park. Although wrong, I was happy to see this side of the woods, especially, because of the vast fields of wild weed flowers.