Tongin Market & Haneul Park

Monday, 29 December 2014

Went to Seoul over the weekend to meet up with Sophia and her mum for a meal and some walking/phototaking. Had a wonderful time checking out 2 places in Seoul that I would otherwise have not known if not for Sophia. Funny how I'm the one living in Korea, but whenever she comes here, she's the one bringing me to places which I wouldn't have known existed.

Tongin Market (통인시장) is a place where it used to be an old market, then got refurbished a little bit and turned into a tourist attraction. The place is a long street with shops on both sides that you can purchase from, much like any other ordinary wet market that you might see in your own countries or even in the many parts of Seoul. However, the extraordinary touch to this place is that they have a lunchbox (도시락) system where you buy food with old Korean coins (동전), but do note these coins are specifically made for this tourist attraction and isn't any way a real old coin of Korea.

To get to Tongin Market, you need to take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Subway Line 3), come out at exit 2 and walk straight for around 700m/15 minutes. On your left you will see a dark market street and hopefully the sign below to let you know that you've arrived.

The lunchbox costs a total of 5,000W and comes with 10 coins in a bundle with a black lunchbox (pictures below) and then you use these coins to purchase food from stalls that have a pink/blue sign that says [도시락 Cafe]. The sign is not big, but a small one usually placed near or amidst their choices of food for easy vision so do not worry.

5,000W for 10 coins, essentially 500W per coin

Black lunch box

Lunchbox cafe!

The place where you can buy these coins and lunchboxes are located on the 2nd floor. Firstly, you need to go in to the middle of the market where you will see stairs on your right (next to the toilets). It is indeed a little confusing because some Koreans ended up asking me where it's at. Once you go up to the 2nd floor, the office where you purchase this from is located at the corner on the right, next to the place where the ladies are serving rice. Once you've made your purchase you can begin your journey walking around and getting food for your lunchbox!

There is a wide variety of food that you can get, ranging from side dishes to main dishes, some examples being korean glass noodles (잡채), korean pancakes (파전), fishcakes (어묵), fried food (튀김), sweet and sour chicken (닭강정), egg rolls (계란), pork cutlet (돈까스) etc. Take some time to walk around and find out.

Each dish costs between 1-2 coins, some even going to 3, so it's roughly 500W-1000W each, just taking into account that each coin costs 500W. It isn't that expensive if you think about it, and usually you'll have leftover coins. Even I, a big eater, used up only 8 coins and couldn't finish my meal. There're also drinks available but I was fine with water.

Once you're done picking out your food, you go back to that place where you bought your coins, however this time you can go to the 3rd floor (or 2nd if there's space to sit) and you can go get water (that's free) or even get a bowl of rice (at the cost of 1,000W) and it's not just normal rice, they served black rice (healthier version) so I guess it's good. Utensils are also available at the 2nd floor. Now the thing about this place is that sometimes the food gets cold fast because you walk around too long, or sometimes the food has just been left at the stalls too long....

But worry not, because there's a MICROWAVE!!! (At the 2nd floor)

After you're all settled, it's time to dig in! (Yum yum)

This place is pretty popular with kids (and I say that because they're in uniform, means under 18) and it's really really packed, even when we went there at 2pm (way past lunch time if you ask me) and we had trouble getting seats too. However I think if you go at other timings, the food may not be as fresh so it's kinda worth squeezing in with the Koreans and listening to them talk I guess.

Something else to note: you're required to clean up after yourself (as per all places in Korea) so please bring down your lunchbox together with your utensils and place them in their respective bins. Even though the words are in Korean, there're pictures available so please help them help you!

After the fulfilling meal, we headed off to get to Haneul Park (Sky Park). This place is really popular during Spring time and Autumn time. Planning to go check it out during Spring since I've already gone in Autumn. However I missed the annual festival during Autumn so I just might go again...

If you're looking to check this place out, remember to wear walking shoes because there's a lot of walking to be done! Take the subway to World Cup Stadium Station (Subway Line 6) and get out at Exit 1. Once you're here look for the East Gate (동문) of the Seoul World Cup Stadium, go up the stairs, keep left then follow the pathway all the way till you reach the next gate. Once you're there you should see a lot of flags and then a huge open ground for you to walk towards a mountain-looking hill. Then you're in the right path.

Confused? No worries, I have photos below to guide you in your conquest of Sky Park. :D


Getting out at Exit 1

See the East Gate? E! (동문) if you can recognize the Korean words.

Keep to the left and then keep walking... 

Once you see flags you're in the right direction

Then continue walking straight through the huge carpark toward the mountain and you're almost there. I told you there'd be a lot of walking. Seriously, one of my most tiring days in Seoul yet. Count on Sophia to bring me to places like these that not many would even know about, let alone think about going.  

Took the chance to take some photos along the way because the autumn leaves were just so unresistable. Especially those "feet-in-the-leaves" photos haha. I'm pretty surprised that Sophia's still into the film photography and I'm kinda happy that I helped influence her a little bit. I can't continue the film photography because there's no shops in Korea that do it (that I know of near where I live) and I would really much like to continue it when I'm back in Singapore [4 years later...] but nevertheless, I hope she continues this wonderful hobby and produce amazing photos.


Looks like some movie poster

Couldn't resist the photos of these on school excursion

Tadah! Haneul Park!

Now, if you're still wondering why this place is famous during Autumn, guess no further: Golden Reeds. What looks like a blank canvas of greenery in other seasons turns into one of the most magnificent fields of gold in Korea. No wonder they hold festivals here D: The view was amazing, there were so many people walking around and taking photos. The place is humungous and I believe it would take at least an hour to walk through the entire place.

Picked up a few reeds to do those Instagrammy shots

Look at that magnificent field of gold D:

University Varsity Jacket ^_^

...and more Instagrammy photos for Sophia

There was this beautiful observatory in the middle of the entire place and it had a very interesting design to it. The stairways and ladders leading up were built in a way where you had 2 sides, and each side you went up brought you to the other side. I know this sounds confusing but it was really intriguing for me haha.

After all that walking, we finally decided to call it a day and went down the hill, took the subway to Hongdae, near where Sophia and her mum lived and had dinner there. Decided on this place where we've never eaten before: Grilled Baby Octopuses. It was fresh, delicious and really crunchy. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant but if you find it, please go eat!

We parted ways after that and I headed back to Cheonan, while they enjoyed another few more days of Seoul, and thereafter Jeju Island. Hope you had a great trip here (again), Sophia. See you in a few more months!

Till next time~

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