It’s been a really nice weekend here in Korea — sunny, if a bit cool and windy. But it was nice enough I though I would do some walking this weekend.
Saturday, I just went exploring randomly in the area between Hongik University and Sangsu Station and Hapjeong Station. I knew it had built up, but I’m always surprised at just how built up it is. After a disappointing Thai lunch a place that will remain anonymous (I think it is the Hongdae spinoff of a famous Gyeongnidan restaurant), we just went walking at random.
I mean, I can remember when all these roads were basically residential. And now they are endless cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Ironically, one of the dorkiest parts in the area used to be the coolest:
This spot, which has long been a terrible-looking noraebang, used to be home to Sangsudo, the first “real” techno club in Seoul. Or the nastiest one. Or something like that. Anyhow, it used to get hopping around 3 or 4am and go until sun-up. Until the police decided it was a den of iniquity and drugs, and started raiding it all the time. Soon it closed and was turned into a noraebang.
Back when Sangsudo was at its peak, this area was nearly all residential and there was nothing else around at all. So I find it pretty funny to see how built up that area is now, with shops everywhere. But this is one of the few buildings that is still not gentrified.
This building has seen better days:
Then I found this:
Yay, Record Forum is still around. It used to be located in the middle of Hongdae, beside what is now Monster Pizza and the Eat Your Kimchi Studios. But its tiny location was torn down and replaced with a garish monstrosity that now houses a Bennigans. I was worried it was lost, but apparently it just move down the street, closer to Hapjeong.
It felt like every time I tried out a new street, there was something interesting to discover — a jerk chicken reggae place, a Portuguese restaurant, a funky little clothing shop (I actually stumbled across a shop run by the girlfriend of a friend of mine, totally by accident).
These days, a lot of people are worried that the gentrification of Hongdae will bring in a lot of chain clothing stores, restaurants and other mainstream franchises. But I think that’s just not really a problem for Hongdae — because Hongdae is just too big for the franchises to take over. Whenever they come to one part of Hongdae, jacking up rents, the cool people that make Hongdae interesting just move somewhere else — Donggyo-dong, Yeonnam-dong, or south of Sangsu Station.
Speaking of Yeonnam-dong, after a disappointing Thai restaurant experience yesterday, today my wife and I returned to Tuk Tuk Noodles, probably the best Thai place in town. And once again, we were very happy with our lunch. I screwed up the reservation, so we had to wait an hour, but it was worth it.
Happiness is a yellow curry full of giant prawns.
Here’s a pic of the restaurant’s entrance (stolen from here):
So, that was my little weekend exploring Hongdae. Nothing revelatory, but I do find it amazing how this part of town just keeps growing and changing. It really is one of my favorite places.