Incheon’s Chinatown has a strange mix of everything. Love stories painted on elaborate wall murals, grim memorials of war — cementing a 100 year political alliance, copious fields of wild flowers, and thankfully, a lot of room for escapism, in its ‘Fairy Tale Village‘. Although, this mural village exclusively targets kids, and is a treat for tots or lovestruck couples looking for some serious posing; it’s a great way for adults to lighten up and look at the bright side of life.




I’m not sure I ever believed in fairy tales. And yet, as a young kid, it’s not something that I could have escaped from reading. Looking back, I now believe, it’s a rite of passage. There’s a reason why we start reading tales of magic and illusion — early on. Maybe because, someday, when we get older, and when things get grey; those tales would remind us, in a parallel world, miles away from where we are, things could be perfectly fine.





If I had to read the Grimm brothers’ Fairy Tales, today, as an adult; I’d find them to be surprisingly dark. A Wiki link reveals, when they were released in 1812, the content was found to be unsuitable for children. And it’s not very surprising — if you’d give it another shot. The stories went through many changes in subsequent editions. The most noteworthy, of them all, is the wicked mother being changed to the stepmother, in the tales of ‘Snow White‘ and ‘Hansel and Gretel‘. Looking back, I’m not sure why nobody finds it unsettling that all stepmothers are portrayed to be inherently evil. In a time, when complex family dynamics are part of life; it’s probably not the right thing to be telling impressionable minds.





If I compare western fairy tales with regional folktales, some of which, I read as a kid; there seemed to be a greater emphasis on ‘doing the right thing‘. Happy endings didn’t matter. A wrong decision could end in an unhappy ending and you’d have to just accept it. It’s hard, but that’s life! There was no escaping the dark side of human nature. Greed, jealousy, temptation, and hate formed the underlying tones of these tales. The secret to being happy was making the right decision. And probably, that’s the most difficult thing to do in life.



More recently, a friend of mine introduced me to Bill Willingham’s Fables. Definitely a more modern take on the classics and not afraid to confront the dark side.




As we walked around these streets splattered with pink, kids laughing, and young couples walking with their selfie sticks; I felt like I was in a surreal world. I knew that, somewhere else, on the other side, there was an alternate reality. I’ve also seen that side. But, now it was okay to revel in bubblegum pops of colour and tales of mythical happiness. Even if it seemed like a temporary sugar rush, it brought a smile to my face. Escapism is not such a bad thing after all.


Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

35 replies on “Love, War, & Escapism

  1. Escapism is definitely not a bad thing, especially when it’s on such a grand and colorful scale. What an amazing place Cheryl, I’d love to walk through there for a touch of nostalgia and fun, I always enjoyed my fairy tales! 🙂

    1. There’s so much street art here, Miriam. A walk down the road and you’ll see so much interesting works on the walls. I think almost every tourist sight or town has a mural village. 🙂 I love it!

  2. That burst of colour!
    I agree with you Cheryl…I’m all for escapism…we need this vibrancy & child like fun more than the kids do!
    I have to confess, I think I enjoyed Disneyland in Orlando in my late 20’s probably more than I would have as a kid:)…

    1. I haven’t visited Disneyland, yet. 🙂 Maybe, if we had spent more time in any of the locations, I could have convinced Basil. Haha! Escapism isn’t all that bad. Travel is also a form of escapism. 🙂

  3. I’ve been to quite a few Chinatowns and none of them resemble this Chinatown at all. I can’t believe how big it is and how many different things they have there! Quite amazing, really!

    1. Haha! It isn’t that big, actually. It looks like it probably because I split our walk into 3 posts. But yes, we did miss seeing the Japanese concession and some museums. It was a very hot day. And we got sunburnt by the end of this walk. I think the diversity of the town is due to its eclectic history. Japanese and Chinese settlers entered this town when it was opened as a trading port in 1883. The American influence is due to the treaty and war. It was my first visit to a Chinatown and I quite liked it. 🙂

  4. Oh my J, i like all the colorful things there. I passed it because of the limited time back on my trip few months ago. I will stop next time. I read a lot of fairy tales when I was a kid, even now. I am not sure either, whether i have to believe it or just let it be fantasy. 😀 😀
    i like your line, let me copy here:
    “I’m not sure I ever believed in fairy tales. And yet, as a young kid, it’s not something that I could have escaped from reading. Looking back, I now believe, it’s a rite of passage. There’s a reason why we start reading tales of magic and illusion — early on. Maybe because, someday, when we get older, and when things get grey; those tales would remind us, in a parallel world, miles away from where we are, things could be perfectly fine.”

    Whatever, escapism most of the time turns pleasing. 🙂

    1. Haha! There’s so much to Seoul. I know your predicament. I’m pretty clear I don’t believe in them. But, it’s great to forget what’s happening around us and think like a child. truly appreciate your comment! Thanks so much for stopping by, Yuna. Have a great weekend! 🙂

  5. Not to sound negative when everyone else is loving all the colorful painting, but I find fairy tales really creepy! I never really liked them when I was young, and now, like you, I see the dark side when I read them and I find the illustrations unappealing. Then again, I also don’t like Disney World or any of those cartoon-like figures that seem very popular in Korea! I think your posts on Incheon’s Chinatown have been fascinating and I’m happy I can visit this way instead of going myself – haha. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you had a different perspective. Adds more meaning to the conversations we have. 🙂 I never thought I’d be exploring such towns. I’ve found it hard to see colours beyond black and white — for a while. A lot of these artworks and colours are difficult for me to take in as well. But, with two failed trips, I’m trying to make the most of what we have. 🙂 And, I can see Mongolia through your travels! I’m travelling through so many wonderful bloggers like yourself. Thanks for stopping by, Lex! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Wonderfully scripted ~ with your words and photos, as I think everyone needs to escape into a different world every now and then. I think this is why I likes fairy tales growing up, it was world I knew I could visit – usually get a bit scared while being in awe of the characters, and then escaping back to reality 🙂 To have places like this to lighten up a day, see the innocence of youth and feel good.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s important to stay grounded in reality. And occasionally, try to forget it all, live a little, perhaps. Get a high on life. Thanks for your comment, Randall! Have a great weekend! 🙂
      – Cheryl

  7. A very interesting read. Even at a young age, I was aware of the stereotyping in fairy tales. Stepmothers are evil – no exceptions! The heroines are pretty with heart of gold but usually naive. They always manage to snare a Prince in the end, without putting in much effort – except for the Little Mermaid. As for the fathers who are Kings, they are portrayed as insipid, spineless and do nothing when their second wives bully and ill-treat their daughters. They also treat their daughters like cattle, giving her hand in marriage to anyone who can help solve their shirts problems. Oh yes, let’s not forget that animals who can talk are actually princes, unless they are cursed to be born a Wolf. In that case, they usually die a terrible and painful death. However, one of the darkest fairy tales, in my opinion, is Hansel and Gretel. What kind of parents will deliberately leave their children in the woods just because there is not enough food to feed them? Abandoning them near a marketplace would have been a better option. The part I find most insulting to the intellect is the last portion where the hypocritical parents feign happiness at finding the children. I get it. Now that the children have the witch’s gold, everyone wants to claim that they are blood-related. I would have pushed the parents into the oven! Ahh! But this is just a fairy tale and I am allowed to have my own happy ending! Have a great week ahead, Cheryl!

    1. Wow! Helen, I really loved reading your comment. It was one of the many thoughts I had whilst writing this post. I’m so glad that we think alike — not just on sunsets! Haha!
      I found Hansel and Gretel very creepy. Really. And I’m not sure if it’s something kids should be reading. 🙂
      That said, these days, I’m getting high on escapism. I’ve had my fair share of reality. 🙂 Could do with a break.
      Have a great week yourself! 🙂

  8. Love this pink world and your photographs 🙂 I am trying to take many things lighter for my own good 🙂
    Fairy tale is just a piece of literature. Who said it was supposed to be all white and fluffy. As to the children, their life was a misery just a couple of centuries ago. Probably half of them never grew up.

    1. I truly love your perspective. Always different and there’s so much meaning to what you say. 🙂 You couldn’t have said it better. “Fairy tales are just a piece of literature.”
      Have a great week ahead! And thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I truly enjoy reading your posts and the world of green — your photographs take me too. 🙂

  9. Very strange place ! So colourful but a bit.. weird. Especially the pink castle. The fairy tales don’t seem weird when we are little because they are different layers to the story. When you have a “pure spirit” as a child, you don’t see all these dark thoughts 🙂

    1. Haha! It’s a strange world of fairies and evil witches. The pink castle doubled up as an art store. I bought a DIY painting from there. Doing a lot of art and craft these days or puzzle solving. I like the way you say “pure spirit”. I guess with time we lose our ‘pure spirit’. It’s part of growing up, I guess.

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