Incheon, a sprawling satellite city — roughly an hour away from Seoul, is a viable living option for many. Finding affordable housing, in Seoul, can prove to be a gargantuan task. Apartment/housing costs keep rising every year and living in the outskirts isn’t a bad idea when public transportation is so efficient. Scores of office-goers travel every day to Seoul from Incheon (and neighbouring provinces) — in an hour or so. Incheon is also known for its rapid development. Its smart ‘cities’ (townships) attract those who want to live a modern life — away from the bustle of Seoul.
Songdo is one such smart city in Incheon. Reaching Songdo, from Seoul, isn’t too difficult. However, travelling to Central Park Station (the stop for Songdo) on Incheon 1 (not to be confused with Metro Line 1) — after taking the AREX (airport line) — can feel like eternity. Central Park Station’s exits can be confusing and the POSCO (South Korean Steel Company) building is a helpful landmark to keep in mind.
Aliens have captured the imagination of science fiction writers and seekers of alternate adventures for eons. I am skeptical about the portrayal of extraterrestrial lifeforms in popular shows and movies. However, it’s also extremely narcissistic to believe that we’re the ‘only ones’ in a universe that’s beyond our comprehension. Looking at a landscape of soaring slabs of modern construction and engineering — I was tempted to believe in the possibility of an alternate reality. Possibly contact was made on earth — in exchange for a couple of humans. How else could one explain that view (from our hotel window) and the lack of human presence. Another theory, one that my overactive mind slowly cooked, was that we had somehow found a wormhole in the spacetime continuum. We were living in another century on earth.
Songdo is a reflection of what South Korea stands for today. The country is triumphantly moving into the future at lightening speed. However, it will do every bit to preserve its roots and find a spot of history in the midst of modernity. Hanoks (traditional Korean housing) formed a small cluster — dwarfed by towering skyscrapers in the background.
As daylight faded and the lights in the glass palaces were turned on, we set out on a trail to explore this modern marvel. The Hanok Village turned out to be a group of restaurants and hotels.
A couple of water taxis broke the silence of the evening. The walking trails were deserted and a treat to explore. During the day, the waterway can be explored with kayaks, canoes, and boats.
Occasionally, we’d stop by boards and spot a couple strolling in the evening. Although we didn’t have anywhere to be or go, we were hoping to find a nice place to eat dinner.
We’ve always preferred green to grey and most of our trips are far away from concrete jungles. And yet, here we were, marvelling at the glittering stars that seemed to be within our reach.
We found a cluster of eating and shopping options at the edge of this paradise of light and glass. We binged on pasta and wine and wondered how life would be in this secluded human-made wonder. Would it better than staying in the midst of a busy office district? It’s been a long-standing tradition of ours to imagine our lives in every new place or country we visit.
We had a long way to the hotel and that gave us an opportunity to digest the heavy meal that we had consumed. Walking paths were lit with light and lined with dense foliage. I’m sure there was CCTV surveillance at every corner, but I couldn’t shake off that eerie feeling. Was it possible that I was so used to being surrounded by people (in Seoul) that I secretly found safety by not being alone?
We spotted interesting structures that commanded our attention and held their own despite being surrounded by ginormous skyscrapers. Tradition and modernity were blending together with ease.
Last June (2019) was one of the hottest months of summer. In the morning, this concrete haven heats up and it’s hard to walk without letting the piercing rays of the sun burn your skin. At night, the temperatures dipped making walking a soothing experience.
The waterway was eerily silent and mirrored the lights of sparkling buildings on its surface.
We came across this unique bridge that connected two different sides of the park. We could spot all the major landmarks of Central Park. If you walk a little further — you’d probably see the stunning Incheondaegyo Bridge.
We had passed G-Tower (not in pic) on the way to the bridge. G-Tower offers a spectacular view of Central Park and it might be good to explore — if you’re not staying for the night.
It’s strange how different places can look surprisingly similar or dissimilar — depending upon what you’re looking at. The cityscape reminded me of Lujiazui — Shanghai’s business district, and Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong. The musical show at Kowloon Bay was stellar and memorable because it was my first international business trip. Shanghai was the second international city that we lived in and I remember being awestruck by the light. Songdo’s Central Park was equally spectacular, but surprisingly desolate. Our travels have also taken us to nondescript villages, in India, that don’t have electricity for even a single bulb. We’ve eaten in a stilt house in a national park, dimly lit with a kerosene lamp and filled with the warmth of our host — a tribeswoman. The contrast between the haves and have-nots couldn’t be more pronounced.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is one of the most complex theories in physics to comprehend. It requires a penchant for math and the desire to let go of everything you already thought you knew (classical/Newtonian physics). Imagination is the only constant required to solve this complex equation. To explain General Theory of Relativity and gravity, most teachers simplify complex equations by asking students to imagine the space-time continuum (3 spacial and one temporal) as a taut surface. If you were to put a circular object (of significant weight) on this surface, it would create a depression or a sinking hole. Greater the weight of the object — greater the depression. Tri-bowl is a perfect example of this theory and further solidified my assumption of being in a different epoch in time.
The aliens had made contact here. Tri-Bowl’s entrance is cleverly camouflaged in a unique pattern of architecture. This multimedia theatre is an offbeat venue for performances, educational programs, and art exhibitions.
It was hard to escape the strong gravitational pull of Tri-bowl. We couldn’t get enough of its unique structure and architecture.
We reluctantly walked back to our hotel. The silence was a bit creepy despite all the blinding light around us.
Our hotel offered stunning views of this maze of development and urban marvels. Songdo is a part of the Incheon Free Economic Zone and was designed for business and living spaces to coexist in modernism. There has been some debate on the success of the plan, but such criticism doesn’t take away from the spectacular feat the planners have achieved so far.
On the next morning, the sun was out and scorched every inch of land we saw. It was time to go back to Seoul and return to the present.