High above the busy alleys of Daehang-no in Hyehwa-dong is the quiet, breezy sanctuary of Naksan Park.
This place overlooks the whole Hyehwa-dong and seems to be a less noisy alternative to all the noisy and chaos happening below. It is just within the area of the artsy Ihwa-dong neighborhood.
The Park has a gallery of Naksans history, where you can read up about its past, its rehabilitation and its present geography.
When I visited this place last weekend, I dropped by the Naksan Cafe and chatted with Mrs. Lee, the owner. This cafe is her own, although she said she doesnt live in the neighborhood. And as always, everyone within earshot of our conversation was curious as to where I was from, since we were chatting in English.
Of course, I told her I was from the Philippines. Although I didnt tell her that her iced cafe mocha was a bit pricey as it cost a few more hundred won than my favorite subway station cafe, and considering we were up a hill, in a public park and there was no barista was around. Ha-ha-ha! I guess she knew she was running a monopoly since the nearest cafe was at least 300 meters down the zigzag road!
And after walking up the Naksan Park, I saw a part of the Seoul Fortress, which is part of the huge project being built by the city government.
Around the Naksan Park lies Dongmanbong, where, Queen ConsortJeongsun of King Danjong was said to have climbed everyday and looked to the east to Gangwon Province where her husband was exiled.
Also around the Park lies Hongdeoks vegetable patch, which was given to her by King Hyojong in appreciation for her loyalty and her delicious kimchi. Hongdeok was one of the kings maids. Wow. A vegetable garden as a royal gift.
The Park is part of the Seoul Fortress, which stands guard around the Park and its neighborhood, much like a spine of walls running from one end at the Hyewha-dong side to the Dongdaemun side. This Seoul Fortress is another huge government project to resurrect the historical walls that once guarded the old city.
Tracing the Seoul Fortress walls afforded me another view of the city: the NSeoul Tower, the Dongdaemun area and the northern front of Seoul.
As I walked around the Park, I thought, even in summer, this place must be a cool alternative with the breezes and trees.
But for those trying to escape the chaotic life downtown, Naksan Parkoffers a quiet corner. Aside from the artsy character of the Naksanneighborhood, which is more like the tourist attraction of the area, those who want to find a less crowded space have to be brace themselves for the steep climb up to the highest point, where the view is more interesting and the breezes cooler.
Unlike going up Namsan where you can take a bus, one has to be prepared with comfortable shoes and stamina when heading to Naksan Park. Im not sure when I may be able to visit this neighborhood again. But when I do, maybe I should bring my own iced cafe mocha. Ha-ha-ha!
If you also want to visit Naksan Park, just take the Subway Line 4, and get off at Hyehwa Stations Exit 2. From that exit, turn left and just meander your way up towards that hilly side of the area. You can actually just lose yourself and enjoy the art works along the way…