We’re celebrating Seoul Week on ExploreMetro! We’ve teamed up with Seoul Sub→urban to bring you stories and pictures from around Seoul. Every day this week we’ll bring you one of their profiles of a Seoul Subway station, today it’s Bulgwang (불광역) .
Don’t forget you can download Explore Seoul for iPhone for just $0.99 this week!
Line 3 – Station #322, Line 6 – Station #612
One of the first things you’ll probably notice when you exit Bulgwang Station is that the air is just a little bit more breathable here than in other parts of Seoul, and being so close to the edge of the city and to the mountains that makes sense. The most dominating feature of the neighborhood is Bukhan Mountain (북한산), especially nearby Suri Peak (수리봉), rising up northeast of the station, though the hulking 2001 Outlet/Kim’s Club/CGV building attached to Exit 6 is trying its best to change that.
Across the street from that building is what looks – with its gunmetal gray exterior, roof curved at just the right height and angle, and bare bulbs visible through the windows – like an old-fashioned passenger train. What it actually is, is Jeil Market (제일시장) just steps from Exit 7. We’ve gotten to the point in this project where our usual reaction is, ‘Oh. Another market,’ because in all honesty there’s often not much that differentiates one neighborhood market from the next (and there are a lot more in the city than I ever expected), and after a while you start running out of new things to write/photograph. But the Bulgwang market is, frankly, pretty unique.
To begin with, it’s unavoidable. Step out of the exit and just in front of you the sidewalk has been commandeered in a way that would give American zoning regulators fits. Beneath that gray metal and plastic covering, businesses on the inside of the sidewalk extend displays out onto it, and on the sidewalk’s outside smaller vendors have set up stands and tarps. Old women sell plastic bags of kimchi and butchers offer Styrofoam packs of coagulated blood. There are eels, steamed corn, blocks of tofu, and crates of chicken feet on ice. So if you want to walk south from this side of the station, you have to run the gauntlet a little bit, for about three blocks.
After doing so, I turned right into a side street and wandered for a bit through a calm neighborhood of four- or five-story buildings. The occasional breeze disturbed the hot heavy air, but otherwise it was so quiet that I could actually hear the low hum of a barber pole as it spun, and I thought of a guy in the market selling potatoes whose t-shirt just said ‘SLOWNESS.’