My third day in Seoul was somewhat like a blurry line in my organized list; an empty patch from my well-thought-out plan. After I arrived in Seoul and uploaded one of my first pictures of the city on social media, a guy I previously taught English and then kept in touch with sent me a message asking if we could meet.
I already had a well-researched plan and carefully written schedule for this day, but even my
occasionally fussy and methodical self would have been crazy to say no to that. At the same time, I was a little relieved when he said he couldn’t meet me until the later part of the afternoon because that meant I could at least do something from my original plan, so I went to Ihwa Mural Village.
I knew there would be a lot of people, but I completely underestimated its popularity; there were crowds everywhere. The constant stream of bodies and feet made it difficult to appreciate the paintings on the walls and on the famous concrete steps.
Luckily, there were unfrequented alleys with interesting murals that helped me appreciate the effort and time the local artists put into reviving the hillside village that was scheduled to be demolished.
The village also has art museums and cafes, but, if you visit, please remember that most of the buildings there are houses so keep the noise down and respect the privacy of the locals.
One of the cafes sells food and drinks containing makgeolli, a slightly sweet alcoholic beverage made from rice or wheat. I ordered a mango drink and two buns that came with a dollop of cream cheese.
I don’t really like alcohol but I liked both the food and drink. I don’t know if they really tasted good or my seat at the veranda where I could people watch and enjoy an unobstructed view of an interesting painting influenced my taste buds.
I walked downhill from the village to Daehakno where I met In, my guide for the rest of the day. 😁 We first went to Unhyeongung, a palace right in the middle of Seoul. It is smaller and less popular than the others so there were significantly less people there, but I didn’t mind – I liked the calm and quiet of walking around the grounds.
Unlike the other palaces where the architecture and expansiveness of the buildings are the focal point, Unhyeongung has mannequins that show the clothing styles of people of various stations back then.
After closing time, we just walked around an area filled with stalls and shops where In bought me ice cream in a funny-shaped cone, which was super popular from the looks of the people lining for it. I didn’t ask the name of the place but the vibrancy in the area was an energy booster.
After a few detours into a museum and shops, we had what I thought was a traditional Korean meal, which was interesting because it reminded me of traditional Japanese meal.
After dinner Inn suggested we go to Cheonggyecheon, which I actually decided not to add to my itinerary when I was planning my trip.
It turned out to be really great. Unlike the rest of the places I’ve been so far there were more locals in Cheonggyecheon and barely any tourist, so I got to observe locals interact with my friend giving a commentary in the background.
Nothing beats interacting with locals and it really is one of the best things about traveling. I’m glad I know people like In who go out of their way to show tourists another side of their city and something they might have never appreciated on their own.
Ihwa Mural Village Nearest Station: Hyehwa Station
Unhyeongung Royal Residence Operating Hours: 09:00-19:00 (Summer) / 09:00-18:00 (Winter)
Nearest Station: Anguk Station